Who doesn’t love a fair? Even if you don’t have a child to share it with. I grew up on the Del Mar (San Diego County) Fair, which is one of the biggest county fairs around. Our local fairs here aren’t as big but they’re fun.
There’s one right here in Petaluma, the Sonoma-Marin Fair, which, despite the name, is pretty darned small. They are home to the World’s Ugliest Dog Contest (a fabulous event, drawing folks from around the country, that brings love and attention to dogs that might otherwise be unadoptable). They also have no nonsmoking policy. I normally skip it but this year some friends had free tickets, so we went. I had to use my respirator when outdoors, except in the kiddie carnival section (which consisted of about half a dozen rides) and it was insanely hot that day. So I checked out the (air conditioned) exhibits then went home after an hour. Michael and Miriam stayed another hour then I came to pick them up.
5 days in late June
At least 6 acres
Adults (13+) $15, Kids (4-12) $10, Kids 0-3 free, Seniors (65+) $8. Admission includes rides
Parking free but tight
I also enjoy the Marin County Fair, which is a bit bigger with lots of exhibits, booths, and shows. Plus fireworks every night over a lagoon. Smoking is only allowed in a few well-marked smoking tents (that smoke does not easily escape from), though there are always a few who think the rules don’t apply to them. The Marin Fair doesn’t use pesticides and tries to use less toxic cleaning and other products, well as green projects to save energy.
Marin County Fair
San Rafael, Calif
5 days in early July (always includes the 4th)
28 carnival rides, at least 6 acres (for carnival)
Adults (13+) $15, Kids (4-12) $13, Kids 0-3 free, Seniors (65+) & disabled $13. Admission includes rides (extra charge for 3 rides)
Parking $6, very crowded (can take a long time to get in or out), & often a hike
But the fair I consider local is the Sonoma County Fair. A good number of booths, huge livestock/animal section, the “largest themed flower show in the United States,” and horse racing. This fair suffers from a confused (and unmotivated) smoking policy. Two days, kids days, are entirely nonsmoking until 7pm, with so-so enforcement and signage (though it was much better this year, possibly because I spoke with the staff about it ahead of time and they promised to do better). The other days smoking is allowed everywhere except for a spot here, a spot there, and so on (with poor signage). They seem to believe that only children need to avoid cigarette smoke (nearly all the outdoors nonsmoking areas are the kids’ areas and their signs ask people to protect children’s health) and that smoke does not travel (or that people don’t ever travel from one “safe” spot to another). My hope is that I can convince them to follow Marin’s example and set up comfortable and convenient, but contained, smoking areas and make the rest smoke free.
Sonoma County Fair
Santa Rosa, Calif
13 days in late July, early August
Entire complex 200 acres; carnival 5 acres plus large separate kiddie carnival
Adults (13+) $9, Kids (7-12) $3, Kids 0-6 free, Special free days for kids or seniors. A couple events and big name concerts are extra. Rides are not included with admission. Pay $3-5/ride or get a wristband for unlimited rides for $25 ($15 if purchased in advance)
Last year was the first time I’d ever entered a Fair contest. Miriam entered 3 photographs and won 2 ribbons. I won 3rd place for my blog (out of 5 entries) and nothing for my date nut bars.
This year, only I entered. How thrilled was I to enter the exhibit hall and see this:
Until I went looking around for my competition and discovered this was it.
Yep that’s right. There were 4 entries for dried meat and only one for produce. Apricots were their own class (so were apples and pears). I asked the staff why, if I was the only one, I didn’t get first place. Apparently, it’s not just about the order you fall in but about meeting certain standards. If you look at the meats though, you’ll see that only one of them won a prize, despite there being 5 ribbons available for each class. So my fruit might not have been top notch (probably because I cut them before drying; they’re delicious but not the flattened globes most people are used to) but it was prize-worthy.
I fared much better with my other entry. There were at least a dozen poems in my class, free verse, and I won 3rd place.
This is the poem, Suddenly Fall, I wrote after William’s death. You can read the text more easily on its blog page.
I discovered this year that the Marin Fair, with huge numbers of contest entries, allows entries from neighboring counties. And I might do the Sonoma Harvest Fair this fall. For the Sonoma County Fair, fine arts (especially painting/drawing and photography) are well populated, but food contests are mixed.
As for the rest of the Fair, we had a swinging good time for 4 hours, until we went into the Pavilion to check out the business booths and Miriam suddenly started crying to go home. She has been extra sensitive to foods and chemicals lately so who knows. Unfortunately, we never did get to see the animals this year, see the flower show, go to most booths, play any games, or finish with our rides. Ah well. We’ll be back next year.