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Sonoma-Marin Fair: A uniquely Petaluma event

  • The sun sets on the 2013 Sonoma-Marin Fair. (John O'Hara/ For the Argus-Courier)

Some came for the fried food, others for the ugly dogs, and yet others for the spinning rides, but all left with a distinctly Petaluma experience.

Where else but in a town bordered by wine and farm country can one learn how to milk a cow, pet a llama, then attend a wine and carnival-food pairing event?

All told, more than 60,000 people flooded the Sonoma-Marin fairgrounds for this year's fair, which opened its gates Wednesday, June 19 and gave its last Ferris wheel ride on Sunday evening.

Sonoma-Marin Fair

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“It was a great fair,” said Fair CEO Pat Conklin. Final attendance won't be available for a couple weeks, but Conklin estimates that this year's event may have drawn more than the 62,000 people who came in 2012.

“Thursday was a great day, attendance was way up, one of the highest ever,” she said.

Conklin attributed much of Thursday's crowds to a performance by Dancing With the Starts winner Kellie Pickler.

Then on Friday, the Worlds Ugliest Dog competition drew thousands of canine enthusiasts, as well as international media attention.

But Conklin said it was the variety of the fair's offerings that consistently attracted the crowds, offering something for just about everyone.

Caitlyn Garner, 6, came for the funhouse. Another youngster, Robert Cesena, was drawn to the petting zoo.

For Kendra Spicher, 17, the best part of the experience was overcoming her fear of going on the zooming, whirling rides. “I've been going to the fair as long as I can remember,” she said.

On opening day, people wearing everything from cowboy hats to flowing skirts could be seen wandering the fairgounds. Children waved at their parents as they rode ponies in a ring while an elderly couple held hands as they maneuvered through the throngs of people.

Clusters of teens formed in the crowd as old friends recognized each other and came together with wave or shout.

“I just love all the people, they are great,” commented Jim Thompson, a firefighter with the San Antonio Volunteer Firefighter who was manning an outreach booth. “I am here trying to make people more aware of volunteer firefighters because most people don't even know our little San Antonio department exists. The kids love to see the equipment we have here on display.”

Thompson has volunteered at the fair for two years and says he plans to continue for “quite some time.”

“There's something for every age group to see and do,” Conklin said, adding, “we keep developing that every year. We're always looking to make the fair more exciting and unique.”

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