Barlow Street Fair: A sense of community

Closed off streets and blaring music on a Thursday night in Sebastopol can mean only one thing: the Barlow Street Fair. The fair is located on McKinley Street in Sebastopol, but spilled out onto some side streets as well. The Barlow Street Fair takes place every Thursday night from 5-8:30 p.m., and will continue until Oct. 30.

There were a variety of permanent local businesses that line the streets, supplemented with many street vendors who stayed for just the street fair. The local businesses included retail stores, restaurants, wine tasting rooms and microbreweries. Many of the local businesses also had patio seating while some featured live music.

Other booths include retail clothing, tie die of just about anything, art, jewelry, oils and lotions, beer and lots of food variety. Some of the street food found Thursday included pizza, Mexican, soul food, fish and chips, barbecue, sandwiches and even a paleo food tent. There were tables and chairs throughout the fair for resting, drinking or dining.

“I came for atmosphere and a sense of community. The wine doesn’t hurt either,” said Kevin Haslebacher, a Sebastopol resident.

Haslebacher’s friend, Ross Halleck from Sebastopol and a local vintner, someone who makes wine,  said, “I come for the beer actually.” 

The Village Building Convergence (VBC) group recruited volunteers Thursday to paint a mural in the middle of an intersection on McKinley Street. The big mural in the middle of the street was “to build community,” said Lukas Walsh, a member of the Village Building Convergence and a Sebastopol native.

There was a live band on a big stage at the Barlow Street Fair where patrons used the street as a dance floor. The band Frobeck played where next week Gator Nation will play, and on Oct. 2 the Pulsators will play.

This last week there were people of all ages lining the streets dancing with even a group of synchronized dancer.

“The crowd can be up or down depending on the music. The music brings different crowds,” said Lisa Schroeder, the manager of Village Bakery, which is located in front of the concert area on McKinley Street. 

After Schroeder explained the size of the crowd and that Village Bakery does the catering for the Green Music Center located at Sonoma State University (SSU) when the Santa Rosa Symphony played.

The Barlow Street Fair was also dog friendly, had a big jump house for kids and many hangout areas, including one with a fire pit.

At the Barlow Street Fair, most people “start out with a beer, and after people have walked around a lot, they come for dinner,” said Jonathan Ong, the manager of Woodfour Brewing Co. He also explained his company specializes in European-style beer including sour beer.

The street fair was not just about how it brought products to consumers, but welcomed all ages and styles to entertainment, food, drinks and a sense of community.

The Macphail Family Winery Tasting Room was especially inviting with greeters at the patio. Their patio overlooked the music stage, and made it easy to see and hear the music with a glass of wine while sitting in a patio chair. 

“The tasting room is normally full with everyone watching the music. Barlow is a destination, so people park and walk around so they don’t miss any of the vendors,” said Steve McDyer a wine educator at Macphail Family Winery.

With the music in hearing distance, the Macphail tasting room had a 12-seat couch, with a display of soil samples from each vineyard where they grow their grapes.

The Barlow Street Fair in Sebastopol is just a 22-minute drive from SSU, and all students are welcome. More information on the Barlow Street Fair, and a complete schedule of live music can be found at thebarlow.net.