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At 102 degrees, Sunday's "Great Handcar Regatta" was a scorcher. Still, according to one Handcar Regatta attendee the event's "atmosphere of creativity, whimsy, and fun was so UNUSAL" she could forget the heat! Head turning distractions were a plenty with street musicians blaring out a joyful noise, Victorian or "Steam Punk" costumed families abounding, vintage circus side shows on every corner, AND a slew of home crafted carriages and hand cars.

We made it over to the tracks where Les Claypool of Primus would announce handcar names and statistics of intriguing metal contraptions. In a moment of excitement, the crowd and organziers seemed mystified as one handcar approached the finish line unannounced. Families, adults, and seniors jostled for a viewing position and called out for people to step back from the tracks. This rogue car and team just decided to join in the fun by making a 20 mile trek from Healdsburg!

Karen Wilkinson, mother of two who biked with her family and in-laws to the event, commented on this example of how "unregulated" the event felt. "It's very cool but there does seem to be some potential for getting hurt." She furthered that she loves the event spirit, and simply minds the "use at your own risk" signs. The Wilkinson family spent several hours seeking shady spots between exploring the bike powered swings, Children's Museum, people watching, and checking out the handcar races.

Suki Winship, also loaded daughter Lily on her bike and pedaled down. Suki arrived at 11:15 in time to see a marching band at the event's opening. She and Lily were so enthralled with the Regatta I found them still engaged by 2:30. At this hot point in the day, they'd slowed down to watch some spontaneous street action like shaking hands with the man on stilts. Suki and Lily are repeat attendees and plan to come back for next year's event. They are hooked on the "hint of Burning Man right here in Santa Rosa."

Tonya Singer, event returnee, loved the Handcar’s theme and sculptures. She found this year's event bigger and more interesting than the last. Tonya noted that more vendors filled the streets- and more people! As a founding member of the Children's Museum of Sonoma County whose booth was featured in the "Children's Section", she's thrilled by the opportunity to connect with so many local families.

Another family enjoying the exhibits at the Children's Museum offered they were glad to "stumble upon" the museum - with no apparent event program, map of vendors, or specific details in the event promotional materials, this family wasn't sure what they'd find at the event. It certainly appears that the Handcar's organizer's M.O. is to inspire discovery and surprise!

By 3:00, the sun began to bare down on some families and I heard murmurs of families packing up to leave. Then the Reighard family walked by happily savoring cold popsicles. Several families cried out for directions to the ice cream vendor, and a huge group of us mustered the strength to trot over to a bicycle vendor. There I heard one young, parasol toting tween tell her Abe Lincoln father she was not having fun and was ready to go home. However, a moment later with popsicle in hand, she admitted to me that she was at least really enjoying the array of costumes at the event.

Next year, bring your sunscreen, iced water, and parasol and join in the Great Hand Car Regatta's fun. Thanks to Ty Jones and Spring Maxfield for bringing vibrancy and unusual whimsy to Railroad Square!


  1. Anonymous // October 6, 2009 at 11:34 PM  

    Sounds like a blast. I didn't know such a thing existed. We were in much cooler places up in the Yosemite Valley last weekend. I love costumed events though, they're such fun. Are there any cool upcoming haunted events around Halloween in your neck of the woods?

  2. Sono-Ma: Holly White-Wolfe // October 12, 2009 at 6:58 AM  

    Sonoma County sure does have amazing attractions! Check out Sono-Ma's Free Event Calendar and ad for Sonoma Family Life's Pumpkin Patch and Halloween Guide for more upcoming events.

    Want to know what other community's are doing? Check out this Regatta - The Great Pumpkin Regatta in Maine:

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