Roseland, the unincorporated island of Sonoma County completely surrounded by the city of Santa Rosa, is no stranger to neighborhood celebrations, after honoring its Latino residents’ heritage with an annual Cinco de Mayo fiesta every spring for the past 13 years.
But this weekend, the district gets a brand-new event, the first Roseland Community Festival, a free one-day event featuring some 30 acts on two stages, including such popular Sonoma County bands as Easy Leaves, Oddjob Ensemble and Banda Pacifica.
“We’re booking both Latino artists and Anglo artists, so it’s aimed at integrating both audiences into one event that’s more diverse and more inclusive overall for the whole area,” said the new festival’s founder, Jake Ward, a Santa Rosa native and longtime Roseland resident.
In addition to the live bands, the festival includes the Miss Latino Wine Country contest, a fashion show, a performance by Roseland’s Parking Lot Poets group, a poetry slam, belly dancing, and interactive arts and educational activities for children.
“This is the first time I’ve spearheaded an event of this size,” he said.
Ward, 29, has produced the monthly North Bay Cabaret variety show series at the Whiskey Tip bar in Santa Rosa for more than three years, as well as producing circus and variety acts through his Circus Maximus troupe with partner Krysta Hodson for other local festivals, including Santa Rosa’s Railroad Square Music Festival and Petaluma’s Rivertown Revival.
“I have lived in the Roseland neighborhood for the last 10 years. One thing I’ve been acutely aware of is that it’s a low-income neighborhood, so it’s a natural home to a lot of the artists in Santa Rosa and Sonoma County,” Ward said.
“And yet, when we think about what’s going on in the local music and arts scene, there’s a lot of attention given to the music festival in Railroad Square, and the South of A Street neighborhood with all of the art galleries, but for the artists who live in Roseland, there isn’t a performing arts space,” he said. “There hasn’t really been an event designed to showcase what’s going on in that area. I think the area is not painted in as positive a light as it deserves.”
Ward said this effort to promote more interaction between Roseland and the surrounding area is especially timely now, considering the proposed annexation of Roseland by Santa Rosa.
“This event really just started with wanting to create more access to art and music in the neighborhood and create more opportunities who live there.”
The Roseland Community Festival is backed by a $5,000 grant from Creative Sonoma, a division of the Economic Development Board of Sonoma County created three years ago to support and promote the local arts.
“Creative Sonoma decided to open a grant category to encourage creative pop-up events,” said Kristen Madsen, director of Creative Sonoma. “What can you do that enlivens what we’re calling a microcommunity? It could be a neighborhood, an alley or a storefront.”
Ward’s application was one of about 20 that Creative Sonoma received, which were reviewed by a panel of experts from outside the county, for the sake of impartiality, Madsen said.
“What we saw in Jake’s application was something really unique in terms of the homework he had already done and the experience he already had,” she said. “And he wanted to try to something cross-cultural that really was about and for the people in Roseland, that was using local artists and was multidiscipline, with food, art and music.”
Creative Sonoma gave grants to nine events in all. Next up is “My Life: In 90 Seconds or Less,” scheduled for Oct. 8 at the Video Droid store in Santa Rosa. A local panel of film experts will select video portraits by 10 finalists to be screened on the video store’s exterior wall. For a full schedule of the pop-up events, visit creativesonoma.org.
In addition to the event grants, Creative Sonoma also awards annual $1,000 grants to help local artists and musicians. Three of the bands booked at the Roseland Community Festival are past grant winners. The Black Sheep Brass Band and Easy Leaves won last year, and the Oddjob Ensemble won this year.
Other collaborators in the Roseland Community Festival include Latino Service Providers, its nonprofit fiscal sponsor, and Camacho Market, sponsor of the main stage, Ward said.
You can reach staff writer Dan Taylor at 707-521-5243 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @danarts.