It was already late afternoon when several newcomers arrived Sunday at a west Santa Rosa home to join in the construction of a cozy outdoor seating area that, while on private land, is meant for public use.
Most of the builders were strangers to each other, but there they were anyway, packed together side-by-side and ankle-deep in a muddy mixture of water, sand, straw and clay soil from the back yard.
Like grape stompers of old, the volunteers — participants in a larger event called the Village Building Convergence — were using their feet to mix a construction material similar to adobe called cob.
Other workers pressed the material into the molded framework of a circular bench and began adding shelves, where visitors will eventually be able to share and borrow books.
Serena Coltrane-Briscoe, who lives in the residence with her husband, Chris McCook, and 1-year-old son, said she hopes that neighbors, passersby and kids from Wright Charter School right next door will feel welcome to come spend time and perhaps trade books through the Little Free Library taking shape in her yard.
Theirs is one of more than 12 “place-making” projects underway this week as part of Sebastopol’s second Village Building Convergence, a 10-day festival designed to promote, strengthen and celebrate community first launched in 2014.
“I would love to have it be a place where people want to come to and hang out,” Coltrane-Briscoe said in front of her Price Avenue home, midway between Santa Rosa and Sebastopol. “In rural residential neighborhoods, the culture has tended to be more one of fences and no-trespassing signs.”
The Village Building Convergence, which opened Friday and runs through Sunday, includes the creation of community gathering spots, social events, speakers and presentations about topics that this year include helping honeybees recover, social justice and climate resiliency, intentional communities and the changing culture of cannabis.
Activities are held each afternoon and evening at the Sebastopol Grange off Highway 12, where a colorful, multi-layered canopy offers shelter and seating for outdoor social events.
It is modeled after Portland’s successful “city repair” movement, which brings together natural building, street painting, aesthetic improvements and environmental efforts to better the community.
Some of those participating over the weekend put their time and energy into refreshing colorful pavement paintings of salmon and other images along a block of McKinley Street, a low-profile road that links Sebastopol’s downtown with The Barlow market district. Designers hope the artwork will encourage visitors in one area to visit the other.
Several young children were excitedly taking part Sunday afternoon, but local VBC founder Sebastian Collet said he was gratified earlier to see “all colors and ages out painting the street together.”
Nearby, at the new Chimera maker space off Highway 12, Dave Harris and volunteers were transforming three hefty logs into bee hives, including one that will be located at the Laguna Wetlands Preserve at the edge of town.
Two others were to be placed where honey might be harvested in the future, including one headed for the Ceres Community Project, where teens learn to cook healthy meals for seriously ill patients and their families.
Harris, a former contractor, said it was fun to see people pop in out of curiosity and spend some time helping to hollow the 4-foot logs so they could be baited with a resinous substance called propolis, or bee glue, and placed in appropriate spots.