me at Christmas2008

I have been involved with art festivals for most of my life. My father was a potter in Southern California and I began traveling and doing shows with him when I was eleven. My parents both loved the Renaissance Faires, and our family went to them every year. When I was eighteen I began singing in a traditional music group and we performed at both the Renaissance Faires and Dickens Faires for six years.

I became a craftsperson in my early 20’s, making and selling dried flower wreaths, garlic braids and head garlands. I transitioned from that craft to leather work, which I did for thirteen years. Eventually I designed and began producing a line of women’s clothing. Ciel/Thomas Designs was a big success, and I traveled all over the country doing some of the best festivals in the U.S.

During this time I did lots of different holiday events, and they seemed to fall into categories. They were either high-quality art shows with little to no entertainment or food, ala KPFA or the Celebration of Craftswomen. Or they were big holiday extravaganzas, like Harvest Festivals, with great food, lots of entertainment, but mediocre quality craft. Then there were the themed/costumed events, like Dickens, which were magical and entertaining, but the craft had to fit into the period, which made it limiting for the artist and the consumer. And none of them really had great wines and beers.

In the early 90’s I met Michael Ecton, a photographer who was doing festivals too, and he eventually became my husband and partner in festival productions. He and I started the Bodega Seafood, Art & Wine Festival in 1993, and it was a successful event from the start. One thing that we decided early on was that Bodega should be balanced between the arts, music, food and libations. None should be the primary focus, but all should be the best quality possible. Though he and I divorced in 2002 we still work together on that festival.

It is this “formula” that I bring to the Wine Country Winter Festival, which I am producing on my own. The quality of the craft, food, and entertainment are all excellent, and the tasting is the icing on the very delicious cake. By making this a holiday event I am fulfilling a further desire to honor this time of year and the special feelings it brings. My aim is to create a joyful celebration of the season which will fill the hearts of those who love the holidays and win over those who avoid them.

~Janet Ciel
Festival Producer

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