With an increased number of participants and attractions this year, Winterblast, a street fair reported to have the only sofa parade in the country, showed off its quirky, artsy character Saturday night in Santa Rosa’s up-and-coming South of A neighborhood.
Where else do dancing fire jugglers, belly-dancers, accordion players, jamming trombonists, mermaids, a fairy queen and people in electrically lit-up translucent jellyfish outfits gather in a two-block area crisscrossed by a warren of art galleries and studios?
Add a parade of a dozen or so old couches, some adorned with multicolored lights and rotating wheels, customized to look like the Millennial Falcon from Star Wars, or the Abominable Snowman from “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.” What could be better?
How about a look-alike Marilyn Monroe in a faux fur sitting on a passing blue and white couch, waving a bejeweled, gloved hand, under a banner proclaiming “Some like it Hot.”
“Every sofa is an art piece,” said Dan Macken, who had the snowman couch with a laser-cut backdrop framed by LED lights powered by a car battery.
“Every year we enter a sofa. It’s getting more and more elaborate,” he said, adding that there is no entry fee or judging contest.
“It’s just individuals making their own art in the form of a sofa,” he said. “It’s the art event of the year.”
Crystal Acker, part of a Grinch-themed sofa entry, apologized for highlighting Christmas prior to Thanksgiving, but said “the couch already looks like a sleigh.”
The parade, led by a ragtag band, ran down A Street, then onto a block of Sebastopol Avenue, before turning around to retrace the route. It’s “half an hour long. It used take five minutes,” Macken said.
“It’s so friendly and fun,” said Karen Kaiser of Sebastopol as she watched the sofas and huge puppets go by. “It’s unusual to have something exciting at night for kids.”
“This is one of the finest events in Santa Rosa,” said Claudia Levin, dressed in a twinkling Winter Queen of the Fairies outfit. “There’s magnificent creativity that the children and parents are sharing.”
Santa Rosa Vice Mayor Chris Coursey, who was attending his first Winterblast, said “we need more events like this in Santa Rosa. It’s such a great gathering of all ages.”
“It’s families out in the dark, and it’s not Halloween,” he said.
Dan Scannell, an oil painter who has a gallery in the neighborhood, said there were probably three times as many floats this year as last.
Winterblast, he said, introduces many people to the South of A community.
“They discover all these galleries and working artists,” he said, adding that a week later some people will return to buy a painting when it is less crowded.
Frances Fuchs, a psychotherapist by day, came dressed in an elaborate, lighted jellyfish costume that was originally made for Burning Man.
“Artist, creative types have a good time and get crazy,” she said of affair, which she has been to nine times, starting around the time it originated.
When the first Winterblast kicked off a decade ago the neighborhood was a pretty economically depressed area, she said, and artists set up there because they could afford it.
Diversity and whimsy still characterize the area, and its signature event earned many fans Saturday.