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'Winterblast' festival celebrates indoors and outdoors

  • Jeremiah Flynn provides power for a decorated couch in the 'Sofa Parade' during the South of A St. Winterblast celebration on Saturday. (John Burgess / The Press Democrat)

Everyone was wandering everywhere as the light began to fade and it was a pretty cool scene in what used to be a pretty bad neighborhood.

Over there, “Chef” Ivan Neibart of Santa Rosa sat on a newsrack in front of an old diner being turned into a culinary apprentice program for at-risk youth.

He said: “Have you seen anybody, anybody all, just between you and me, who is upset or frustrated?”

He seemed to have a point. No bad vibes were evident at Saturday night's Winterblast, a, well, how to describe it: An annual indoor-outdoor festival that features artist studios, music, food and, after nine years, what has become a much-loved parade involving couches.

It is one of several public street events put on every year by the loosely organized and proud of it South A Street community — “I hope we never become a nonprofit,” said Barbara Harris, an organizer and gallery manager.

“The neighborhood's actually starting to support itself,” Neibart said.

The sun slid below the Highway 12 offramp at the neighborhood's west edge and in the intersection of South A Street and Sebastopol Avenue, a person on a bicycle did tight donuts.

A woman whipped glowing things on strings around in circles.

“It's beautiful,” said Susie Dalton of Healdsburg, coming out of a building housing 20-odd art studios and galleries. “And it doesn't feel very wintry.”

It didn't. The air was south of warm but well north of brisk. It was very mellow. People were letting their toddlers run, standing around talking. There was always someone laughing, it seemed.

But over by the Whiskey Drome it wasn't mellow. It was actually intense.

A fence-like structure built of two-by-fours that flared open like a daisy in partial bloom was actually a track around the inside of which whizzed three young men on bicycles to a thumping musical beat.

Improbably — for the structure was just 26-feet around at its widest — its owner and builder Mike Solari said: “We can fit 10 bikes in here.”

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