s
s
Sections
Search
We don't just cover the North Bay. We live here.
Did You Know? In the first 10 days of the North Bay fire, nearly 1.5 million people used their mobile devices to visit our sites.
Already a subscriber?
iPhone
Wow! You read a lot!
Reading enhances confidence, empathy, decision-making, and overall life satisfaction. Keep it up! Subscribe.
Already a subscriber?
iPhone
Oops, you're out of free articles.
Until next month, you can always look over someone's shoulder at the coffee shop.
Already a subscriber?
iPhone
We don't just cover the North Bay. We live here.
Did You Know? In the first 10 days of the North Bay fire, we posted 390 stories about the fire. And they were shared nearly 137,000 times.
Already a subscriber?
iPhone
Supporting the community that supports us.
Obviously you value quality local journalism. Thank you.
Already a subscriber?
iPhone
Oops, you're out of free articles.
We miss you already! (Subscriptions start at just 99 cents.)
Already a subscriber?
iPhone
X

The "Follow This Story" feature will notify you when any articles related to this story are posted.

When you follow a story, the next time a related article is published — it could be days, weeks or months — you'll receive an email informing you of the update.

If you no longer want to follow a story, click the "Unfollow" link on that story. There's also an "Unfollow" link in every email notification we send you.

This tool is available only to subscribers; please make sure you're logged in if you want to follow a story.

Login

X

Please note: This feature is available only to subscribers; make sure you're logged in if you want to follow a story.

LoginSubscribe

Shortly before the moon emerged from silvery clouds, 3-year-old Maeven Blake reached out from her mother’s arms and touched falling, man-made “snowflakes,” including a mass that had come to rest on the black stovepipe hat of a rotund plastic snowman.

Maeven and her mother Tiffany Blake and hundreds of others gathered Sunday night in the first New Year’s Eve celebration in downtown Santa Rosa in 15 years.

“It just sounded like something fun that we could do as a family,” the Santa Rosa mom said. After arriving in Old Courthouse Square, she was pleased to encounter both friends and neighbors.

The free downtown celebration was the largest of several gatherings Sunday in Santa Rosa that ushered in the New Year. Among the events was the common goal of bringing people together.

Two Sunday gatherings took place in areas burned by October’s Tubbs fire and were hosted to honor fire survivors.

In Santa Rosa’s Coffey Park, where 1,300 homes burned, volunteers prepared ball drops at 9 p.m. and midnight near the Christmas lights decorating a section of Hopper Avenue. Organizer Ronnie Duvall said Sunday’s event was meant to provide hope and help neighbors get to know one another better.

“We’re talking about a neighborhood coming together,” Duvall said.

Also, Sonoma County Supervisor James Gore teamed up with local businesses to host up to 400 fire survivors Sunday afternoon and evening at the Burbank Center for the Arts, a facility that itself suffered fire damage. The event, featuring free food and drinks, provided families from Coffey Park and Larkfield the chance to talk and have fun together.

Mike Holdner, whose lost his home in the Mark West Estates neighborhood near Larkfield, said on this night he wanted “to be with the neighbors who went through what you went through.”

Lauren Thompson, who with her husband John lost a home in same neighborhood, said the fire’s aftermath helped show her “neighbors you never knew you had.”

She joked that Holdner, a block captain in the Mark West rebuilding efforts, had become “our new best friend,” and she jumped at the chance to join such neighbors on New Year’s Eve.

“I had to be with my people,” she said.

Also Sunday, the Charles M. Schulz Museum offered its child-centered “Happy New Year, Charlie Brown” party, complete with root beer toasts and two afternoon balloon drops at its northwest Santa Rosa facility.

The downtown event was the first New Year’s Eve celebration held there since 2002, as well as the first such event since Old Courthouse Square was reunified last spring.

It was hosted by a local restaurant company, Chandi Hospitality Group, whose eateries include three downtown restaurants and a Mountain Mike’s Pizza on Cleveland Avenue that burned in the fires.

“I just want everybody to celebrate the great things we have,” said Sonu Chandi, the company’s president and CEO.

He said he hopes more downtown businesses will help sponsor the event in coming years.

Sunday’s bash took place beneath mostly cloudy skies, which kept the temperature brisk but far from freezing. Temperatures dipped below 50 degrees by 9 p.m.

The downtown celebration featured live music on a main stage and a variety of booths to buy food, alcohol and other drinks.

Children’s activities included face painting, balloons and a snow globe jump house.

The artificial snow flying lightly from a machine on the square’s east side attracted many tykes fascinated by the fluttering flakes.

Maja and Mike Baker stood waiting on the west side as their 5-year-old daughter Anya navigated the “Radical Run” obstacle course. For the couple, the New Year’s Eve event seemed well suited for families.

“It’s a good thing to do with our daughter,” Maja Baker said.

By 6:30 the square had hundreds of guests, including a large contingent of children. Many youngsters bounced sizable inflatable balls on the lawn, waved aloft lighted rainbow wands or brandished expandable LED swords.

Later in the evening 170 guests were slated to enter a heated VIP tent to dine on filet mignon, chocolate mousse and crème brûlée. The VIP tickets went for $125 each.

A ball drop was scheduled for midnight.

Donna Zapata, a longtime leader in the Latino community, said she rarely makes it to downtown events but felt it a priority to join in the celebration this year in the aftermath of the fires.

“I needed to do this,” Zapata said. “This is going to help me with my 2018.”

You can reach Staff Writer Robert Digitale at 707-521-5285.

Show Comment