A special vow renewal unfolds amid return of Petaluma’s Rivertown Revival

The festival is a benefit for the Friends of the Petaluma River, a conservation group for the tidal slough that cuts into downtown Petaluma.|

Andrew and Kylee Bellefeuille are offbeat wedding veterans. They’ve been married over a Zoom call and taken their vows with an Elvis impersonator in Las Vegas.

On Saturday, the good-humored and tattooed young couple joined a Petaluma tradition of cheap, public and impromptu weddings, renewing their vows once again before a hastily gathered crowd of strangers at the Rivertown Revival. The bride, 30, wore a short white dress. The groom, 31, chose overalls.

“Are you, Kylee, still absolutely crazy over Andrew?” asked their freshly-ordained minister Kevin McDonnell, a Petaluma City Council member and mayoral candidate.

The answer, of course, was “yes.”

A small crowd of festivalgoers summoned to the wedding pavilion by festival volunteers clapped as McDonnell declared, “with the sunshine coming down around you, in front of all these people, in the Rivertown Revival tradition, I now pronounce you man and wife.”

The Bellefeuilles uttered their vows — for the third time — in front of a wedding chapel built by renowned sculptor Kevin Clarke, whose work is likely best known for its appearances at the famous Burning Man festival in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert.

The chapel, which according to Rivertown Revival art director Margaret Kuffel was once a portion of a much larger work, was flanked by two towering winged lions. The fearsome creatures had manes of rusted metal and gleaming fangs.

Below the pavilion stretched out the strange dreamland of the Rivertown Revival, an annual gathering that combines an old-fashioned revival feel with elements of Renaissance, steampunk and folk music. The festival is a benefit for the Friends of the Petaluma River, a conservation group for the tidal slough that cuts into downtown Petaluma. The festival was held at Steamer Landing Park, and the slough glinted invitingly on a hot July afternoon as partygoers milled, drank and danced to a full slate of 19 bands on multiple stages.

“It’s really hard to put your finger on this festival,” Kuffel said. The overall vibe is a mix of the “eclectic style” of the various local organizers and artists who give their time to make it happen, and who were beyond excited to bring the Rivertown Revival back after a two-year pandemic hiatus.

“It’s supposed to hearken back to a time when things weren’t mass-produced and marketed,” Kuffel said, “when people used what they had to create a fun day at the river.”

And dating back nearly to its inception, it has also been an opportunity for unique weddings and vow renewals.

The Bellefeuilles are a fine example of the persistence of romance amid a pandemic that kept many apart. They are also just the kind of quirky Petalumans the Rivertown Revival caters to.

Andrew first set eyes on Kylee when she was talking to a mutual friend at another Petaluma celebration, the 2018 Butter and Eggs Parade. He thought she was “the most beautiful girl (he) had ever seen,” he said, but did not have the courage to introduce himself.

The crush struck, and Andrew found the courage to begin wooing Kylee over social media. They first got together in July 2020 and were married by November.

Their first wedding was a pandemic special — a “courthouse wedding,” but instead of visiting the Sonoma County Courthouse they spoke to a faceless clerk whose Zoom screen was the county government logo.

“It was so awkward,” Kylee said.

Next, during a honeymoon trip to Las Vegas, they paid an Elvis impersonator $300 to conduct a new ceremony on Valentines Day in 2021.

On Saturday, 18 months later, they professed their vows again. The cost of their Rivertown Revival wedding was the same as it has always been, setting the young couple back $5, dropped into a bucket.

You can reach Staff Writer Andrew Graham at 707-526-8667 or andrew.graham@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @AndrewGraham88

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