Wine Wednesday soothes Coffey Park residents 2 years after North Bay wildfires

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Kismet, coincidence, call it what you will. For the past 16 months, residents of Coffey Park have come together every Wednesday, in someone’s cul-de-sac or brand new home, for a gathering that combines elements of a reunion, tailgate and group therapy session.

The founder of Wine Wednesdays, as these beloved confabs came to be known, is Tricia Woods, who pointed out at a recent Coffey Strong board meeting that Oct. 9, the second anniversary of the North Bay fires that leveled 1,400 homes in Woods’ neighborhood alone, fell on a Wednesday.

Are we gonna do an event, she asked. Or do we tie the two together?

“Take it and run, Tricia,” she was told.

Woods did, which is why, on Wednesday evening, you couldn’t find a parking spot within 300 yards of Jenna Place, which T-bones into the west side of the park in Coffey Park.

By 7 p.m., 200 people had filed past the stout, sky blue Honey Bucket at the entrance of Jenna. Boys on bikes popped wheelies, showing off. Families arrived pulling wagons of victuals and, naturally, wine, though other beverages were available. Diane Farris handed out miniature bottles of Fireball, and had many grateful takers.

Farris, a longtime resident of Jenna, had hugs for the Badaracco family, Kelly, Forest and their sons, Nikkos and Deo.

It was Nikkos, now a gangly ninth grader, who’d pounded on her door early in the morning two years ago.

“He’s my hero,” Farris said.

The Badaraccos had moved back into their house that afternoon, exactly two years after they’d fled, and just in time for this excellent block party whose organizers had, up until a day earlier, considered canceling.

PG&E had promised power shut-offs, and meteorologists predicted fierce winds for 8 p.m. Wednesday, precisely when the shindig would be hitting its stride.

Woods called a number of her Coffey Strong friends, asking: If the winds are high, do we cancel?

The answer was no. The decision was made to “defy the wind,” said Woods. “We’ll huddle together and shield each other.”

As she recounted these deliberations, a gentle breeze, a zephyr, stirred the drought-tolerant ferns and bushes of recently finished homes.

“It’s a gorgeous evening,” exulted Woods, whose mood had dipped a day earlier. She’d gone to the store to stock up on ice and water. She’d filled her car’s gas tank and withdrawn cash. Her emotions were in check. Upon returning to Coffey Park, she saw a long line of cars stacked up at the traffic light at the east end of Hopper.

“It was the exodus, this backlog of cars,” she recalled, “and I was like, “Oh my God, it’s just like that night” her home on Hopper burned.

She sprung a few tears, “then I sucked it up,” she said, with a smile.

“Yesterday, we were all kind of alone, with our own anxiety,” said her friend, May Salido. “But today we’ve got this. We’re together. This is what we needed.”

Coffey Park did not lose power, although Justin Calaway, who’d pulled a wagon — and his 7-year-old daughter, Sophia — the half-mile from Santiago Drive, expected to. Sort of.

One of the maps he consulted showed that power would be on in his garage and living room, but off elsewhere in his home.

“As long as I can plug in the fridge and keep my beer cold,” he quipped, “I’m good.”

For all the hell he and his fellow Wine Wednesday attendees had been through, “I feel the neighborhood is richer than it was, because of the bonds.”

Behind him, folks were breaking out glow sticks. A young girl ran past, pulling an adult woman in a wagon. Old and new friends laughed, gabbed, hugged.

The high winds were a no-show for Wine Wednesday, but they were huddling together anyway.

You can reach Staff Writer Austin Murphy at 707-521-5214 or austin.murphy@pressdemocrat.com.

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