A nonprofit, 501(c)3 organization, the Vintage Festival serves as a celebration of the grape bounty, community spirit and rich community history. Held at the historic Sonoma Plaza, community members near and far gather as one, celebrating the heritage and culture of Sonoma Valley through food, wine and fellowship. Since 1897, community members have touted the Sonoma Valley tradition with this year’s festival marking 121 years of excellence in bringing the community together.
The Valley of the Moon Vintage Festival continues its tradition of philanthropic support to Sonoma’s community projects, raising $46,000 in 2017. California’s longest running festival offers a unique opportunity to experience the arts, taste fine wine and gourmet food, while giving back to the local community.
Each year, the Valley of the Moon Vintage Festival chooses local organizations as beneficiaries of the ticket sales and festival fees. Community organizations, such as Hanna Boys Center, Native sons of the Golden West and Sonoma Valley High Schools’ cross-country team, receive up to 100 percent of the proceeds. Many of the beneficiaries support the festival in return by volunteering at the events and host games or food booths to raise additional funds to support their critical work in the community. Nonprofit organizations also participate in the “Get Your Glow On” parade each year to raise awareness for their organization.
The Vintage Festival, a celebration of the grape bounty, community spirit and rich history, is managed by an all-volunteer nonprofit organization that donates 100% of the proceeds to local nonprofit organizations.
At the first festival in 1897, local playwright and Sonoma Union High School Principal Ben Weed presented his play called The Vintage Festival to the invited guests at the Rhinefarm of the Gundlach family. In the play, the Greek god of wine, Bacchus, set a local community’s problems right. The event was deemed “a great success” by the local newspaper.
The god of wine returned at the second Vintage Festival in 1898 when Bacchus and his followers helped a young man win the hand of the woman he loved after her father promised consent if the young man won the “Olympian games.”
“In the lovely moonlight the drama was enacted in the natural amphitheater,” wrote the Press Democrat in 1898. “Once again Ben Weed has added a gem to the array of his charming compositions.”
For years, off and on, Sonoma residents celebrated the importance of fine wines and joyful living to their community at the Vintage Festival.
Even the Prohibition could not stop the festival. Prohibition began in 1920 banning the sale of alcohol in the United States, but Sonoma residents continued to celebrate the Vintage Festival with “dancing, games and feasting” along with grape juice, according to a 1927 newspaper account.
However, the Great Depression and World War II resulted in the festival falling by the wayside. After an absence of several years, the Valley of the Moon Vintage Festival returned in 1947, featuring costumed participants, from the days when Col. Haraszthy Ágoston planted his vineyard in 1856 in Sonoma, and a parade of horse-drawn wagons. Participants also danced to live music from Mexican bands.
Generations of Californians have attended the Valley of the Moon Vintage Festival held at the historic Sonoma Plaza, the largest plaza in the state. In 1846, the Sonoma Plaza was the site where residents raised the Bear Flag for the first time and declared California’s independence from Mexico.
Many of the Valley of the Moon Vintage Festival events, such as the opening night costume gala at the Sonoma Barracks, tie the residents of the present to the traditions of the past.