For more than 35 years, the Sonoma County Harvest Fair has celebrated the county's fall bounty while showcasing its small-town feel, with contests for everything from pickled vegetables to pet rocks.
On Tuesday, organizers said they are giving it a makeover, dumping its competitive exhibits and family activities to sharpen the fair's focus on wine, food and perhaps even craft beer.
Most of the judged contests will be transferred to this summer's Sonoma County Fair, officials said Tuesday. The changes, which were quickly panned by some longtime Harvest Fair devotees, are designed to build upon each fair's strengths, county fair manager Tawny Tesconi said.
"We are Sonoma County's premier wine competition and tasting," she said.
Others are lamenting the changes.
"It was very disheartening," said Donna Thomas of Guerneville, who last year won third- and fourth-place Harvest Fair ribbons for two types of pickles and a hot pepper relish.
The county has plenty of beer and wine events, Thomas said, but few opportunities to celebrate the accomplishments of those who garden, bake and can fruits and vegetables.
"They have the wine tours and everything, but where do we fit in?" she asked.
Last year, 3,200 Harvest Fair entries were judged in such categories as decorated cakes, cut flowers, holiday crafts and fresh fruits and vegetables. Contestants vied for everything from best plum (won by Mickey Marshall of Sebastopol) and best amateur flower arrangement (won by Cathy Whiteman of Windsor) to best lunch box (won by Rebecca Arent-Draper of Windsor).
The Harvest Fair's competitive exhibit categories will be incorporated into the Sonoma County Fair, which last year had 15,300 entries in its judged contests.
The changes reflect the evolution of the Harvest Fair and the county surrounding it, officials said.
About 22,000 people attended last year's Harvest Fair, a decline of 10 percent from 2010. Wine tasting remains a strong draw, officials said, but fewer families now attend the fair.