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Jurassic Jubilee at the SoCo Fair

The Sonoma County Fair’s “Jurassic Jubilee” is underway. It began on August 3 and will run until the 13th at the Fairgrounds in Santa Rosa. Friday August 4th was Senior Day so the entrance fee was $1.00. You can’t beat that. The fair was mobbed with visitors despite the heat. Parking was chaotic with many directed to vast empty fields with lots of dry grass — fortunately nothing sparked. The fair was filled with wheels — ferris wheels, stroller wheels and walker wheels.

The fine arts and home arts halls are just inside the entry gates making them easy to hit first. Unlike the State Fair with its aggressive air conditioning, this fair relies on open windows and doors and Mother Nature for any breeze she can offer. High ceilings help with the hottest air rising so it isn’t too bad. 

The quality of fine art isn’t as good as the State Fair but that is understandable. There is still plenty of good and interesting stuff. The Home Arts on offer were vastly better than at the state level. More food, flowers, woodcrafts, stitchery crafts, etc. — a very enjoyable array. One woman was whittling wood. She had a basket filled with identical rabbits she had carved out of different woods, each labeled. It was interesting to compare the different colors and textures. In this hall the “Rosarians” had a booth promoting all things rose. After all this was Santa Rosa! Rose lovers can meet once a month in Santa Rosa to compare notes and attend education programs. There was also a national sewing association inviting all interested to attend their Santa Rosa meetings and to “meet the pros.” Everyone working the fair was friendly, helpful and informed. There was definitely a mellow vibe. A pleasure to see so many beautiful things and in some cases to be able to ask questions.

The food was expensive ($11 for a very small bucket of mini donuts) but pretty good. A new entry was “Greek Fries” with feta cheese, olive oil and spices: delicious.

The Hall of Flowers supports the Jurassic theme more than any other area in the Fair. Many giant animated and sometimes roaring dinosaurs are stationed among the flowers where their jaws snap, tails flick and hands grasp. The delicacy of the flowers makes a great contrast to the hulking Dinos. 

There are lots of water features in the building including ponds, fountains and even a big waterfall making this building a favorite, so nice and cool. They did a fabulous job overall with great giant murals at each end of the hall adding to the prehistoric ambiance. So much work and expense went into this exhibit. The State Fair could take note and try to do something equally spectacular (and cool and cooling) in Sacramento next year. Another A-Plus!

Livestock areas offered deluxe accommodations for the animals. The cows had thick clean straw piles to lounge around on with multiple cooling fans. Many special bins marked “Manure Only” made keeping the stalls clean easy. The rabbit and chicken barn was mostly full of rabbits. Some varieties like the Mini-Rex and Sables looked softer than anything else that ornaments planet earth. It was not possible to pet them, but many wished they could. Some had unusual markings to rival the finest modern art. Mother Nature gets another design award. A-Plus again.

Leaving the glamorous rabbits behind, the rodeo arena was hosting women’s barrel racing. Watching those horsewomen ride fast, really fast, and make precision turns really got the blood up. The manes and tails were flying and that long cowgirl hair was streaming as they flew that stretch to the finish line. Thrilling. One very young and tiny contestant’s horse couldn’t quite get into the groove when trying to circle the first barrel but eventually made it around. The second two barrels went better and her dash to the finish was met with wild applause. Gutsy young women all. For safety’s sake two men on earth tillers smoothed the field after each group of competitors doing a fine job of “Leveling the playing field”

There was a big reptile exhibit for those who like lizards and snakes. A fair parade touting fair attractions complete with Dixieland band and cavemen with clubs (a Jurassic touch). A large fancy building labeled “The Barn” held historical agricultural exhibits. It was interesting to read about Luther Burbank (1848-1926) Santa Rosa’s own “Plant Wizard” who introduced 800 new varieties of plants in his lifetime. Other past luminaries of agriculture in Sonoma County included George Nicholas (1916-1998), Samuele Sebastiani (1874-1944), J. Wesley Jamison (1907-1989) and Saralee McClelland Kunde (1947-2014). Google these names for details.

Winding up the day was a concert that had the crowd up on their feet and boogieing down. “The Wonder Bread Five” is a band that has been around since the 70s that has obviously kept up with the times, as the audience was mostly young and enthusiastic. The lead singer in his panne velvet white suit had what can only be described as high energy as he jumped around the stage catching tiny bubbles from a bubble machine in his mouth between verses.

Leaving to return to the grassy parking field long after dark what had once been cars shoe-horned together in long strings at 1:00 in row after row of hundreds of cars had become only a handful of vehicles spaced very far apart by 10:00. Looking back towards the fairgrounds the midway twinkled merrily and seemed a long way away. What a day.

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