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Revamped handcar races planned for summer in Santa Rosa

Eric Acuna, left, and race coordinator Daniel Nicholas compete during the Great Handcar Regatta in Santa Rosa on Sunday, Sept. 25, 2011.

PD FILE, 2011
Published: Friday, February 1, 2013 at 1:50 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, February 1, 2013 at 1:50 p.m.

Almost two years after Santa Rosa's popular Great Handcar Regatta ended its four-year run, one of the event's co-founders plans a new rail-car race this summer.

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Eric Acuna, left, and race coordinator Daniel Nicholas compete during the Great Handcar Regatta in Santa Rosa on Sunday, Sept. 25, 2011.

PD FILE, 2011

Ty Jones, who created the original Handcar Regatta in 2008 with arts activist Spring Maxfield, calls his new event “Dr. E. P. Kitty's Wunderkammer, Featuring the Great Sonoma Handcar Races.”

The plan is to hold the event one Sunday in August at Railroad Square, but Jones is still negotiating with the Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit district on the exact date.

“The date is not confirmed,” said Tara Matheny-Schuster, arts coordinator for the City of Santa Rosa. The Facebook page for Wunderkammer lists Aug. 25 as the date, but a different date is under discussion, she said.

Jones submitted his application last summer to the city to stage the new event and serious discussions started about a month ago, Matheny-Schuster said.

While Jones confirmed the new event “is a go,” he declined comment on the details until the date is confirmed.

The date could be set as soon as next week, she added. Once that happens, Matheny-Schuster and Jones will work out the details of the event in a series of city staff meetings with representatives of the police, fire, parks and transit departments. The application ultimately will go to Kelly Magnuson, deputy director of the Recreation and Parks Department, for approval.

Because SMART is already doing some construction in the Railroad Square district, Wunderkammer won't cover exactly the same area used by the Handcar Regatta, Matheny-Schuster said.

This will be the last summer a handcar festival can be held in the Railroad Square area because SMART plans construction of a passenger platform there, she added.

Working with Jones on Wunderkammer is Praetorian USA of Petaluma, which has co-produced the Northern California Pirate Festival in Vallejo and the Dickens Holiday Crafts Fair in Santa Rosa.

Josh Windmiller of North Bay Hootenanny, which produces concerts at various Sonoma County venues, has been recruited to stage live music during Wunderkammer.

During its four-year run in Railroad Square, the Handcar Regatta drew crowds as large as 15,000 a year. In 2011, expecting track closures because of impending SMART construction, Jones and Maxfield dissolved their partnership. The SMART construction schedule was later revised.

Last year, Jones attempted to launch a new Railroad Square summer arts festival, including a handcar race he called Dr. Erasmus Kitty's Kinetic Opera of Mechanical Mayhem.

He canceled those plans April, citing loss of funding and the closure of the City of Santa Rosa's Redevelopment Agency as the reasons.

At that time, the city's contribution consisted of marketing services, rather than financial support, said Raissa de la Rosa, City of Santa Rosa economic development specialist.

Historically, the handcar events have been supported mostly by private sponsors and donors, both with money and in-kind services, she explained.

The Great Handcar Regatta charged admission only in its last year, at the 2011 event.

You can reach Staff Writer Dan Taylor at 521-5243 or dan.taylor@pressdemocrat.com.

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