Chill crowds and local sounds filled Santa Rosa’s historic Railroad Square on Sunday, welcoming the return of a treasured community festival.
Last held live and in person before the pandemic hit, the Railroad Square Music Festival runs entirely on solar-powered generators. Sunday’s event was the celebration of its sixth year, officials said.
Musical artists performed on intricate stages made inside old trucks and motor homes. People in the crowd danced and cheered, while others sat on picnic blankets or lawn chairs sipping beers while watching the performance.
Local businesses showcased handmade jewelry, vintage clothing, art, food and drink, while dynamic circus performers on stilts danced and entertained attendees.
Founded in 2015, the free festival showcases a variety of musical genres, including rap, rock, folk, Americana and even children’s music. It featured local and regional artists Burrows & Dilbeck, Bad Thoughts, The Happys, Echolyptus, The Spindles, Jade Brodie, Van Goat, Erica Ambrin, Simoné Mosely, 3 Acre Holler, iX Confidence, Crumb Dread, Thrown Out Bones, D. square and Tai Shan who performed on five different stages.
“It’s great to look over there and see neighbors after a few years. I’m happy that we can come together again and celebrate with music,” festival director Josh Windmiller said from one of the stages.
As light winds rushed in on a gloomy Sunday, student musical artists from the Play It Forward Music Foundation, a nonprofit that provides free musical instruments and lessons to those with limited resources, performed a medley indie pop and folk rock at noon at the Metro Chamber stage to break the ice.
Performers this year included Oakland-Guerneville hip-hop artist Kayatta, Petaluma R&B artist Simoné Mosely, as well as Latin bands Tamborazo Santo Domingo & La Agencia and the soulful sounds of Erica Ambrin & The Eclectic Soul Project.
Soulful artist Erica Ambrin & The Eclectic Soul Project performed on the Metro Chamber stage, essentially a truck-turned-vaudeville-style stage, drew a large crowd of people who bounced and swayed to the upbeat music .
“Raise your hands and enjoy the music!” Ambrin screamed during his performance.
A festival-goer, who danced to the music despite the crowds surrounding him, said he attended the Railroad Square Music Festival several times to support his friends who were performing.
“Supporting local music and musicians is a great way to get to know your community and those who aren’t in the spotlight,” said Ken Depeel, 29, who lives in Santa Rosa. “It’s cool to see musicians go from performing in their friend’s garage to a local stage.
“You grow with these local artists,” Depeel added.
By 2 p.m., nearly 400 music and art lovers were in attendance, officials said. This is a noticeable decrease given that the 2019 outdoor event drew 6,000 people.
Imperturbable by low attendance Simone Mosely
“I’m thrilled that they’re bringing our black and brown communities together and celebrating us,” said Simoné Mosely, a successful R&B artist. “Music heals and brings the community together.”
The free festival relies on a team of volunteers and local sponsors. This year’s sponsors are the City of Santa Rosa, HenHouse Brewing Co., Rodney Strong Vineyards, SOMO Village, Stanroy Music Center, Santa Rosa Metro Chamber, Jane Dispensary, Sonoma County, Mechanics Bank, Global Disaster Solutions, Prairie Sun Live, Recology and Teen Center Chops.
“I feel like I’m dreaming,” Windmiller said Sunday. “It’s a good dream. I’m taking everything right now.
The Railroad Square Music Festival is a project of The Lost Church, a performance space and non-profit whose mission is to ensure people have a place to share ideas, stories and the arts downtown of Santa Rosa.
“I hope next year we’ll build on our momentum, learn where we can, and continue to inspire musicians and creatives to help make this region what it wants to be,” said Bryce Dow. -Williamson.
You can reach editor Mya Constantino at [email protected] @searchingformya on Twitter.