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Real Music - Sylvia - December 2016

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Real Music - Sylvia - December 2016

by Robert Feuer

Janet Ciel is excited. An event producer for years, the Wine Country Winter Festival at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds, Dec. 3-4, is the first event she’s organized by herself. After 23 years of organizing the Bodega Seafood, Art & Wine Festival with her ex-husband, an event she describes as “doing phenomenally from Day One,” she says, “This is 100% me.”

The music lineup is impressive. “I try to stay very local for my music,” she says. There will be two stages, located in Grace Pavilion and the Hall of Flowers, featuring blues, swing, zydeco, worldbeat, jazz, and classical, offering top acts like the David Luning Band, the Bootleg Honeys, Dgiin, and Frobeck. There’s a big dance floor. A third stage will provide comedy, juggling, and the Sebastopol Ballet School doing a piece from the Nutcracker Suite

Santa and his Elves will be hanging out, and there’ll be sing-along caroling both days.

But, this show will concentrate on much more than music. “What I want this show to be,” says Ciel, “is a very high-quality crafts event, with great food and music, huge tastings, lots of kids’ stuff, and a big celebration that embraces it all.

“I want entertainment accessible to everybody. I don’t want one aspect of this show to outweigh the other.”

Ciel, who has lived in Sebastopol for many years, started doing crafts fairs with her father, a potter, at age 11. Most of them were around the L.A. area where she lived, but they “traveled some,” as she wrapped pots, packed boxes, and learned selling. “I had sales ability from 11,” she says.

At 18, she joined a group singing English and Irish folk music at the Renaissance Faire, the Dickens Fair, and Irish pubs, after moving to San Francisco to attend college.

She became a craftsperson in her early twenties, making and selling dried flower wreaths and garlands, then doing leather work for 13 years. She went on to create a highly successful line of women’s clothing, for which she traveled to some of the very high-end festivals in the U.S. 

Together with her ex-husband, an event producer before they met, Ciel organized the Duncans Mills Festival of Art and Wine, before starting the Bodega event in 1993. “I’m meant to be doing this. I got the hang of it from the beginning,” she says.

She enjoys the decorating for these events the most. The hardest part is the tiny details. Licenses, permits, insurance, sometimes keep her up at night thinking. But, “it’s my world,” she says.

Ciel is adamant about avoiding commercialization. Attendees at this festival can pick and choose among a vast array of crafts, events, food, and libations. “I want to appeal to people who love the holidays, and to people who hate them.”

For all the details go to winecountrywinterfestival.com including info on how to volunteer. Volunteers get free admission, a festival hat, and get fed.