About an hour north of San Francisco, in the heart of picture perfect California Wine Country, Sebastopol is an ideal destination for your next getaway. The city has a history dating back to the 1850’s, when settlers began to move to the area so they could take advantage of the rich soil and temperate weather. A post office and trading post were established and when the gold rush began to wane, many fortune seekers made their way to the area to pursue agriculture. As the area moved into the 20th century, successful apple farms helped fuel the incorporation of Sebastopol in 1902. The earthquake of 1906 left the city decimated, but they regrouped and rebuilt quickly. As the 20th century moved along, the apple farming industry lost some of its steam, but Sebastopol continued to grow. Now the city is a main artistic and creative hub for the region and one of the leading cities addressing climate change and sustainable living in California.
Sebastopol provides stunning panoramic vistas no matter where you look thanks to a Sonoma County location amongst the major apple orchards and vineyards. The lush natural surroundings are perfect for any outdoor enthusiast. You’ll find many activities to try during your stay including biking and hiking local scenic trails, wildlife viewing at one of the great local parks or teeing it up at a championship level golf course. The orchards and vineyards are great for tours and tastings, plus you can visit some unique local farms. One of the best times to visit Sebastopol is during April, so that you can take part in all the fun activities surrounding Sebastopol Apple Blossom Festival.
Heading into its seventh decade of existence, the Sebastopol Apple Blossom Festival is one of the most popular spring events in the region. A parade accompanies the festival helps the event attract over 10,000 people annually. This event is perfect for the entire family. Your kids will love playing with live animals, taking part in fun games, watching the parade, riding rides and so much more. Everyone will enjoy the diverse selection of food and drink, live music and a market filled with unique items to purchase. Join the friendly residents of Sebastopol for a family-friendly experience you won't forget. We got the chance to interview Teresa Ramondo, Executive Director and CEO of the Sebastopol Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Center, to talk about the festival.
RAL: Tell me a little bit about the festival.
TR: The Sebastopol Apple Blossom Festival has been a tradition in Sebastopol in celebration of the apple industry for decades. Known mostly for the Gravenstein apple, Sebastopol was home to many varieties and several apple processing plants. Although the industry is not as dominant as it once was, agriculture in general still plays a major role in our area and certainly deserved to be celebrated. This year’s theme is Vintage Blossoms, capturing the real essence of our community and the event.
RAL: How many people attend annually and who are they demographically?
TR: The parade and festival attracts between 10,000 and 15,000 annually from in and out of the county and country! This is a family-friendly event, and the parade tends to bring the kid out in everyone. The event also attracts adults that enjoy the sophistication of fine wine, great music and cuisine offered throughout the two-day event.
RAL: What makes the festival unique?
TR: The fact that this event has withstood the test of time and tradition. Although there may not be as many orchards as there once was in the area, this remains a true community tradition. Families and students plan their year to meet up at the festival and parade for reunions.
RAL: Take me through a typical day at the event.
TR: Volunteers are up at the crack of dawn staging the park area and parade. The parade down Main Street steps off promptly at 10:00 am, with our Citizen of the Year as our Grand Marshal. Nearly 100 entries take to the street for nearly two hours, and then everyone heads over to the park and the Center for the Arts for a festival filled with arts and crafts, food, wine, beer, children’s activities, and the best music around including a Sunday Blues Festival.
With the help of our local radio station, KRSH, we get some of the best Blues talent to headline the Sunday line up. This year we have The Peterson Brothers Band from Austin, Texas; Patrick Sweany from Ohio; and Laura Price, a Bay Area talent. In addition to these national and regional acts, we also have some of the best local talent around performing.
Sebastopol has some of the best restaurants around with a variety of specialities including Mexican, Thai, farm-to-table, organic, vegetarian, California cuisine, and more. They also carry some great local wines that are created right here in the Russian River Region. Some are featured at the festival throughout the weekend.
The festival takes place in Ives Park, which is within walking distance of the downtown parade. There are several grassy areas adjacent to the two stages of music and some picnic tables. The crafts are located in the parking area around the perimeter of the Sebastopol Center for the Arts, which houses a state of the art gallery (Best of the North Bay).
RAL: What can attendees expect to find for local lodging?
TR: We have two lodging properties conveniently located in town: Fairfield Inn and Suites/Marriott and Sebastopol Inn. There are B&B’s in the surrounding areas and a number of properties listed on vacation rental sites that offer smaller, more quaint experiences, and sometimes a more local farm feel.
RAL: What does the festival mean to the community?
TR: This is a weekend when old friends come back, meet up, and get reacquainted. It also kicks off a season of local Sebastopol events. The community has watched their kids and grandkids in a time honored parade. Veterans march at 90+ years of age. It means family, friends and offers a truly charming small town celebration.
Our festival brings a welcomed boost to the local economy. Our restaurants, bars and storefronts are busy on into the night. It attracts visitors who come back at other times of the year as well.
The Festival supports several nonprofit organizations that donate their time to assist with the preparations for the event. It takes a lot of volunteers to pull it off. Some proceeds go towards supporting the local Visitor Center at the Chamber and the programs we run.
RAL: Why should people come?
TR: This is a fascinating step back in time for many, a celebration of traditions often lost in bigger cities. A time to capture the real spirit of the small town feel yet experience the sophistication of the talent, culture, and the beautiful surroundings that Sebastopol and the area have to offer. There’s more to see here, as people tell us. It’s a feeling that they get, they’ll want to come back.
For more information about the Sebastopol Apple Blossom Festival, please visit their website.