Sonoma County’s ‘Tropical Fairadise’ is here

The aroma of fried food, the hum of live music and a duo of giraffes and zebras blowing bubbles on stilts were some of the many sights that wowed crowds on the fair’s opening day on Thursday of Sonoma County.

With bungee jumps, carnival rides, games, horse racing, animal exhibits and a “Captain Jack Spareribs” magic show, to name just a few of the attractions, there was plenty for visitors to do as the fair returned to full steam for the first time since 2019 due to COVID-19 induced cancellations and downgrades.

Santa Rosa resident Alicia Debonis and her 8-year-old son Dominic, whose grin from ear to ear featured a handful of Dippin’ Dots, enjoyed food as they sat outside one of the shaded picnic tables on Thursday.

“I go to the county fair every year with my family, and it was really weird not having this tradition for two years,” said Debonis, wearing a tropical dress and lei to match the theme of this year, “Tropical Fairadise”.

“I’m glad he’s back,” she said.

The tropical paradise theme, inspired by Polynesian culture, was evident in the famous Hall of Flowers, where audible “oohs” and “ahhs” could be heard as visitors entered.

In the center, a gigantic Tiki fountain spouts water into a sea of ​​colorful flowers and lush plants, the arena dotted with small huts and murals.

One visitor, Michael Poirier, 68, of Santa Rosa, said he comes to the fair every year because he is a carpenter and is inspired by landscaping projects.

“It looks like they’ve put a lot of work into this year’s (exhibition),” he said of the contestants, adding that the theme feels like a holiday.

Competitors also enjoyed community praise for their hard work, as well as recognition in the form of awards.

Mike Boss, a member of the Men’s Garden Club of Santa Rosa, who won first ribbon for their “Skull Island” portion of the exhibit, said they used rare yucca, coneflowers, milkweed and more again to create their pirate-themed garden. .

The Hall was not the only venue for competition, however, as people of all ages exhibited goats, cows, rabbits and more in the livestock shows.

Cassie McKnight, an 18-year-old from Future Farmers of America in West County, entered her yearling steer named Willard in the cattle show. She won awards in the locally born and raised category and in the crossbred category.

“I do it because it’s really fun, and why not,” she said, guiding her long-lashed black-and-white steer out of her stall for a photo.

Watching a steer competition, Audrey Ferber, 73, says she drove from San Francisco.

“I just thought it sounded like a good antidote to city life,” she said, adding that the highlight for her was watching the lambs and cows. And that being around live animals “makes me think about what I’m eating and where it comes from,” she said.

For many, going to the fair is a family tradition.

Cori Tallent takes her mother, Alison Yoshikawa, to the fair for her birthday every year.

“It’s nice to see everyone out there,” Tallent said. “I hate to say the word ‘normal’, but it sounds more normal.”

And the fair food, which included fried pickles, waffles on a stick and lobster fries, is “awesome and artery-clogging,” said her husband, who declined to give his first name. Previously, they had feasted on a cocktail of prawns and octopus.

“I’ve never seen this, it’s so much fun,” Tallent said, as two people dressed in giraffe and zebra costumes, wearing tutus and leis, rode on stilts, blowing bubbles for them. children.

“Seeing the kids get angry is what makes the fair so fun,” she says.

You can reach editor Alana Minkler at 707-526-8511 or [email protected] On Twitter @alana_minkler.