Losing Illusions

Longtime Sonoma lighting design company suffers warehouse fire

If you’ve attended a large wine country wedding reception or North Bay nonprofit fundraiser in the last two decades, chances are you’ve enjoyed the ambient work of Sonoma’s Illusions Lighting Design. The company, whose origins can be traced to a condominium garage 20 years ago, is a family business. Larry and Claire Ginesi, and their sons Tony and Chris, built a company whose reputation took it to places like Pebble Beach, Jackson Hole and Miami for events with people like Dana Carvey, Tony Bennett and the Golden State Warriors.

That all changed last week.

“My dad was at the warehouse by himself in his office,” says Tony Ginesi. “He went out the front door to go outside for, like, 10 minutes. When he came back inside, he looked down the hall and he saw massive flames in the warehouse. He immediately called the fire department. They are not sure yet exactly what happened.”

The warehouse and almost all of its contents, including lighting, sound and video equipment, were destroyed. All that remains of Illusions Lighting Design is the equipment that was stored in two company trucks that survived the blaze.

Ginesi, who reduced his involvement with the family company when he took the position of general manager of Sonoma’s historic Sebastiani Theatre, is also the technical director for Cirque de Bohème, an old-style circus based on the French tradition of the 1920s. Some of the circus’ decorations
and stage curtains were also lost
in the fire.

“Luckily,” says Ginesi, “we just had a gig in Calistoga and hadn’t unloaded the trucks yet, so we saved about 90 percent of the circus stuff.”

In a statement, Cirque de Bohème producer Michel Michelis assures the public that the show will go on. They are working on replacing the lost stage material and hope that the news won’t deter audiences from coming out when they present their new original show, “Yesterday,” under a tent located at Cornerstone in Sonoma from Nov. 23 through Dec. 16.

A great deal of Illusion Lighting Design’s work has been in supporting local nonprofits like the Boys & Girls Club, the Hanna Boys Center, Pets Lifeline, Sonoma Mentoring Alliance, the Petaluma Education Foundation and La Luz Center with lighting and audio/visual design for fundraising events. In a great example of giving back, La Luz Center is now raising funds for a Ginesi Fire Relief fund to get the company back on its feet.

And the Ginesi family is determined to get back to work. “We want to find a warehouse space and start over so we can keep helping our local community,” says Ginesi. Family matriarch Claire Ginesi adds, “Our motto in Sonoma since last year’s fires still rings true. ‘The love in the air is thicker than the smoke.'”

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