Tag Archives: Sonoma-Marin Fair

Sonoma Marin Fair: The Food

One of the fascinating things about fairs is the way the equipment and entertainment rolls up in trailers and trucks, rolls out onto midways and fields, and rolls on to its next destination. Indeed, it can be quite a sad experience to stand on the midway of a once-busy fair the day after it’s been packed up to move on.

The middle of the fair is something else of course. And in the middle of the midway is the food. Strange, storied, remarkably unhealthy, uniquely American, offered-nowhere-else-in-the-world fair food. And that just covers the food for sale to eat. There are also various food-creating and food-eating contests, which each have their own culture of participation and judging.

Here are some of the offerings from our local Sonoma-Marin Fair. (See these posts for more about the Fair’s Animals and the Fair’s Rides and Games.)

Hubby, “Hamming” (gamming?) it up.

Love the burger cake! Baked by a young person, too.

… And the classic funnel cake eating contest.

Until next year!

Photos by Susan Sachs Lipman

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Sonoma Marin Fair: The Animals

County and state fairs are wonderful, traditional summer events. They offer down-home fun for people of all ages — rides, carnival games, contests, shows, and farming and animal exhibits. If you’re in California, which has a whopping 58 counties, chances are there’s a county fair near you right now. Even the California State Fair is happening now.

For me, the animal exhibits and contests are at the top of the list of things that make a great fair what it is. As a non-farmer, I can get educated about farm animals and the work and culture of breeding, caring for and showing them. Farmers, breeders and interested youth can also showcase their skills and work. In very rural areas, fairs offer rare opportunities for busy farmers to interact, to show and to see what others are doing.

Animal exhibits have been a part of American county and state fairs ever since 1807, when farmer and mill owner Elkanah Watson showcased his sheep in the public square in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. According to StateFairRecipes.com, he clanged an old ship’s bell to attract attention. His goal was to encourage local farmers to raise Merino sheep, so that his mill would receive superior quality wool. By the late 1800s, county and state fairs were occurring all over the U.S.

Each fair bears the unique imprint of its geographic area. My favorite local county fair is the Sonoma-Marin Fair, which occurs in Petaluma, CA, in late June. I recently posted a pictorial of the fair rides and games. Now it’s time to highlight the animal exhibits.

Of course, the cows are a favorite. We appreciate our weekly delivery of local Straus Creamery milk.

The chicken coop was moved to a bigger, breezier area. It’s always fun to see (and hear) the regal roosters, hens and chickens.

Hog races were a new addition this year. The caller and operation came all the way from Arkansas.

We spent a long time in the sheep and goat barn.

And we took in a Sheep Showmanship competition of 4H and Future Farmers of America youth. We were impressed with the participants’ diligence and sheep handling, as well as with the seriousness of the competition, the obvious work and skill involved, and the sheep themselves. This site explains sheep show judging.

See photos of last year’s fair’s pig showmanship competition and more.

Watch for the final installment about the Sonoma Marin Fair: The Food.

Photos by Susan Sachs Lipman

Sonoma Marin Fair: The Rides and Games

I love summer’s county and state fairs, none more than our local Sonoma-Marin Fair, in Petaluma, which has come and gone this year. The Marin fair is closer, and the Sonoma fair bigger, but frankly, this one that we latched onto many years ago (before Anna was even born) is the keeper. It’s a wonderful combination of farm animals and agricultural events; classic rides, games and food; a wide midway for strolling; country performers; and down-home exhibits and contests that recall simpler times when people came to fairs to show their baking and animal-handling prowess and to be exposed to new things.

Here are some photos from last year’s fair. This year, I took so many, that I divided them into sections. Come along and ride the thrilling and classic fair rides and soak up the atmosphere and draw of the traditional fair games on a summer day and dusk in June.

I love this Falling Star sign so much, I took movies of it!

Coming up: Fair farm events and food.

Photos by Susan Sachs Lipman

Snapshot: This Moment. County Fair Funnel Cake Eating Contest

{this moment}

A Friday ritual. A photo capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

Inspired by Amanda Blake Soule and legions of lovely bloggers.

I hope you’ll be similarly inspired and leave a link with your own “moment.” I’d love to see it.

Here’s hoping you have a wonderful Fourth of July weekend!

Photography by Susan Sachs Lipman

Local, Sustainable Tastes of the Sonoma-Marin Fair

Sonoma and Marin Counties enjoy such a rich agricultural bounty that it should come as no surprise that the Sonoma-Marin Fair provides a wonderful opportunity to sample some of the best and newest local, sustainable food. This year, the Farm-to-Table exhibit had been expanded. The first item we tried was the fantastic McEvoy Ranch Olive Oil. You could really taste the fresh grass in it.

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McClelland’s Dairy (where we used to take our daughter to watch the cows being milked) is now making their own organic, artisan, small-batch butter, which we happily sampled and found extremely tasty.

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We had terrific honey from Hector’s Honey, which is available at the Santa Rosa, CA, and other local farmer’s markets in eucalyptus, vetch, wildflower, and other flavors from local flowers.

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We spoke with Karen Bianchi-Morada, 8th generation cheesemaker (Italy, Switzerland, and now five generations in West Marin). Her Valley Ford Cheese Estero Gold was extremely tasty. Aged 120 days, it’s an asiago-type cheese that’s buttery, distinctly flavored, and affordably priced. It’s available in Whole Foods and other local markets.

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Next up was something new called Sonomic Vinegar, from Wine Country Vinegars. It’s a rich balsamic-like vinegar that had more depth and flavor than a typical balsamic and, yet, was still made from 100% grapes. The producer also runs Sonoma Valley Portworks. I assured him a visit would be forthcoming.

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Of course, no fair would be complete without the requisite corn dogs, funnel cakes, garlic-fry bricks, deep-fried twinkies (!), watery margaritas, barbecued chicken, chow mein, kettle corn, and lemonade. And, sure enough, we left the sustainable exhibit and sampled some of that stuff, too.

Follow our other fair adventures here.

Photos by Susan Sachs Lipman

Tales of the Sonoma-Marin Fair (One Day Left!)

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I just love this fair! We went opening day and had a spectacular time, as always. It’s a familiar, comfortable, classic fair that’s extremely easy to navigate. This year there were a couple of new additions to the old favorites, as well.

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Each fair visit has its own highlight. I always love the many animals at the Sonoma-Marin — goats, sheep, cows, pigs, poultry, rabbits — and the way visitors can walk around and see them, and then watch different animal events. One year, we saw a Sheep Shearing contest, which was fascinating. This year was the first time we saw a 4 H Pig Showmanship contest. We watched kids from 10-16 years old compete.

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The judge was wonderful and encouraging to every entrant. He explained to us some of the things he was looking for — command of the animal, eye contact with the judge, ease. Some pigs had clearly chosen Show Day to act up and had to be coaxed out of the ring’s corners. The participants all seemed serious and dedicated.

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This Ohio State University site shares more about pig showmanship. As usual, at the fair, I learned something about animals and their care and came away with renewed respect for farmers.

We watched this participant bathe her sheep.

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The goats were very rowdy this year, really bleating at one another.

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We visited all our other favorite animals.

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And we learned more from the wonderful displays kids had made about their animals or their 4 H projects.

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This was the first time in years that we hadn’t entered our own jam, so of course we spent a lot of time looking at the food exhibits.

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The young cake decorators were particularly impressive. This fondant cake was made by an 11-year-old.

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These TV-dinner-themed cupcakes, also made by a young person, were original and perfect.

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Still another exhibit hall featured art, collections, and other hobby work, from antique doll collecting to woodworking, by people of all ages. This apron, made by a 10-year-old, was very well done and had a nice vintage look, in fabric choice and design.

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The sky turned blue and a sliver of a moon came up. Even the Cinnamon Roll trailer, on the great midway, looked poetic and somehow Western.

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We bought kettle corn from a Ft. Worth, TX, couple we always visit. We first had their wonderful kettle corn at the California State Fair, which comes to Sacramento mid-August through Labor Day.

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Back down the midway, for another session of rides! This fair charges one admission price, which includes all the rides and exhibits, so there’s no having to stop the fun and/or pay extra for tickets for things. The games do take cash, and we always have to try our luck at those.

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Night fell, the neon of the rides came on, and more people seemed to arrive. The fair just felt more lively and exciting.

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As always, we’d been there for hours, and it was still incredibly hard to leave.

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Until next year!

Photos by Susan Sachs Lipman

Sonoma-Marin County Fair Opens Today

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The Sonoma-Marin Fair is here!

I love county fairs, and we in the Bay Area have an abundance of great fairs to choose from. Because it straddles two counties that each have a fair later this season, the Sonoma-Marin Fair can be overlooked. This fair, in Petaluma, has been my family’s favorite for years.

All your fair favorites are here: a midway with tons of traditional food, like corn dogs and funnel cakes, good rides for all ages, carnival games, food and animal exhibits, live music and performances, and lots of special contests. Over the years, we’ve seen sheep shearing, cheese carving, cow milking, hypnotists, and contests for everything from gathered wool to painted shoes.

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The Sonoma-Marin Fair has a down-home feeling, which is in keeping with Petaluma’s farming and historical roots. There are a lot of animals to see and activities for small children. It’s also not as large or crowded as some other fairs, making it particularly appealing for families.

The Sonoma-Marin Fair is in town Wednesday, June 24 through Sunday, June 28. We plan to be there opening day and will report back.

For directions, hours, events and more, see the Sonoma-Marin Fair site.

See you on the midway!

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Photos by Susan Sachs Lipman