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77th year of Sonoma County Fair offers home-spun fun

  • Teresa Purroy looks up and watches as her great grandchildren ride the Ferris wheel at the 2012 Sonoma County Fair. (BETH SCHLANKER/ The Press Democrat)

Every year at the Sonoma County Fair, some of the visitors pass through the gates and head straight for the arena to see a concert, or directly to the racetrack to place a bet.

Some linger in the exhibit hall just beyond the front entrance, listening to sales pitches for vegetable slicers and hot tubs, and some start with a walk through the Hall of Flowers.

Others are content to watch the 4H and Future Farmers of America kids groom their sheep and shampoo their pigs.

2013 Hall of Flowers

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Running July 25 through Aug. 11, now in its 77th year, and themed “Home-Spun Fun” this time, the fair still packs a nostalgic wallop for local fans who look forward to returning every year.

When we asked readers to name their favorite things about the annual celebration of Sonoma County's agricultural traditions and heritage, livestock rated high.

Sonoma County restaurateur John Stewart said he enjoys wandering through the livestock sheds at the back of the fairgrounds, revisiting “all that stuff we learned from local agricultural friends who attended the fair as kids. ... You could go for years and never know it was there.”

Stewart, co-owner of Zazu restaurant with his wife, Duskie Estes, also was among many who cheerfully embrace the guilty pleasures of fair food.

“We go one day just to eat junk food,” Stewart wrote. “We take off our wine country chef hats and go to town. The kids love it.”

Many couldn't imagine a visit to the fair without a platter from the Pasta King stand, or a turkey drumstick from Willie Bird's.

Sebastopol teacher and stage actress Mary Gannon Graham said she looks forward to “my one and only corn dog of the year, and the fresh squeezed lemonade.”

But musician David Petri, who comes just for fun to the Santa Rosa fairgrounds from Middletown in Lake County, best summed up the tawdry allure of fair cuisine: “Eating junk food that tastes GREAT at the fair, but would taste terrible outside the gates.”

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