Residents enjoyed a bonfire, live music, and food to ring in the New Year

PASO ROBLES — The City of Paso Robles hosted its first New Year’s Eve bonfire in six years to ring in 2023 at the Paso Robles City Park. Hundreds attended the event, which was spared by the pouring rain that managed to cease just at the start of the bonfire. 

Shonna Howenstine, the city’s civic engagement coordinator, Shonna Howenstine stated, “The last New Year’s Eve bonfire was in 2016. We don’t do a New Year’s Eve event every year, but residents really seem to enjoy this one.”

Food vendors and beverage vendors were available at the park, where a large bandstand was built at the Spring Street end of the park. Cal Coast Brewing Co., Paso Robles Distillery Trail, Hoyt Family Vineyards, and SLO Meltdown were all vendors at the park. As for entertainment, C Smith Band, Speakeasy Entertainment/DJ Chad Fortin, and The Dancing Fire were present to keep things interesting. 

“Weather affected the setup crew but not the event attendees since the rain stopped right before the event start time of 7 p.m., and it stayed dry through the end of the event,” Howenstein said. “Heavy winds would have canceled the event, so the event manager and vendors watched the weather forecasts very closely all day.”

Closer to the Carnegie Library, the Paso Robles Fire Department lit a bonfire fueled by pallets that were protected by the rain with a tarp for most of the day. A temporary fence created a safety perimeter around the fire. Families gathered around the fire to keep warm while listening to the live music and awaiting the East Coast timed countdown to New Year’s at 9 p.m.

Before leading the countdown, Councilman Steve Gregory received a resounding cheer when he asked the crown if they wanted to do this again next year. The crowd then cheered for the final countdown as a disco ball was lowered. 

Earlier in the day, many residents were unsure of the event’s possibility to go on due to the rain and potential high winds. According to, Paso Robles received 0.33 inches of rain on Saturday, Dec. 31, 2022. 

“We were worried that the weather would affect the turnout, and assumed that once the rain stopped and the bonfire and band got going, residents would be drawn into the park, and that’s exactly what happened,” Howenstein said. “It’s always fun to see smiling faces at these community events we’re fortunate to get to put on.”

By New Year’s Day, Paso Robles received nearly 2 inches of rain within 24 hours, but rather than dampening spirits, the rain came as a refreshing and positive start to what will hopefully be a healthy and prosperous year for all.