For many in the North Bay, the summer doesn’t start until the Novato Festival of Art, Wine & Music commences each June in the northern Marin town. This year’s installment of the 36-year-long tradition features artisans, musicians, culinary crafters and winemakers taking over downtown Novato on Saturday and Sunday, June 8-9.
Presented by the Novato Chamber of Commerce, the free festival has grown from humble small-town beginnings into one of the largest street parties in Marin, encompassing several blocks and drawing more than 80,000 visitors over the weekend.
It’s also one of the most beloved festivals in Marin.
“It’s a festival that is very family-friendly, even with young kids, and at the same time there’s lots going on for adults,” says Novato Chamber of Commerce CEO Coy Smith. “It’s a clean, good-old hometown event.”
Over the years, the hometown fun has expanded with an ever-rising profile of musical performers, and the Festival was named “Best Music Festival” in the most recent Pacific Sun Best Of Marin readers’ poll.
“In the last five years, we’ve put more effort into our music lineup,” says Smith. “The music is a big draw now.”
This year’s musical highlights will again garner praise, as the lineup is stacked with top Bay Area bands. Opening the event on Saturday is up-and-coming dark-folk outfit Younger Youngest, veteran rock ‘n’ roll trio the Beer Scouts, genre-bending wine country band Sonoma Sound Syndicate, California country star Victoria George, and headliners Soul Section and Danny Click & the Hell Yeahs.
Sunday keeps up the beat with retro-swing band Strangers in Paradise and grunge-tinged blues rockers THICC opening the day. With “swampy-tonk” group Miracle Mule, Novato’s own James Harman, Marin-based Brad Curtis Project and headliners Foreverland and Wall Street.
Pairing with the lively music is a selection of North Bay wineries and breweries, including wines from Trek Wine and Mantro in the Novato local’s booth, Jacuzzi Family Vineyards, Cline Cellars and CabCorp, a Novato-based business importing wines from Chile, Argentina, Australia and Europe.
The festival’s selection of art and handmade crafts offer something for every taste, with jewelry, pottery, posters, photography and more on hand, including North Bay favorite Cindy Fox, aka the fish artist, whose sought-after original works depicting High Sierra trout and other species has become a staple of both the fly-fishing and art communities.
For the kids, the festival offers everything from bungee jumping to rolling around in giant inflatable balls on the water and playing in the bounce houses and the giant pirate ship.
Even with visitors coming to the festival from as far away as the Oregon border, it’s also an annual tradition for Novato natives. “We notice that a lot of people come back to this festival again and again over the years,” says Smith. “It’s like a homecoming for them.”