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What You Need to Know About The Gravenstein Apple Fair

The “Sweetest Little Fair in the County”—AKA the 43rd annual Gravenstein Apple Fair—comes to Sebastopol the weekend of Aug. 13 and 14, 2016. The fair is sponsored by Sonoma County Farm Trails, whose members are local family farms and agricultural/artisinal producers.

If you’re a newcomer or visitor to Sonoma County, you’re probably wondering why a decades-long event would center around a specific variety of apple. Well, the Gravenstein isn’t just any apple. It has a formidable past and once formed an entire Sonoma County industry unto itself.

People have long believed that the Gravenstein was brought to Sonoma County sometime around 1812 by Russian fur trappers at Fort Ross. However, recent evidence indicates that it might have arrived in the state even earlier, brought north from New Spain by the Spaniards. It grew most easily and best in the cool summers and sandy soil around Sebastopol.

The Gravenstein ripens early, usually in late July, so it’s one of North America’s earliest apples on the market. It’s also delicious and quite versatile; depending on its degree of ripeness it’s perfect for munching as well as making into apple sauce or apple pies. "If the Gravenstein could be had throughout the year,” local resident Luther Burbank once said, “no other apple need be grown."

The Gravenstein is also a prolific producer, and as pioneers settled Sonoma County in the mid-1800s, it was planted widely. Eventually the Gravenstein was shipped by trainloads to other parts of the nation and played a major role in the county’s commerce.  In recent years, though—due to suburban development, orchard/vineyard conversion, a global over-abundance of apples, and other factors—Gravenstein production has declined significantly.

But lucky residents and visitors can find Gravensteins easily during harvest season, at local farmer’s markets and—as you’d expect—at the Gravenstein Apple Fair.

Here’s the low-down on what to expect on Aug. 14 and 15:

Musical Entertainment: Music is laways a big part of the Apple Fair, and this year's live music schedule is no exception. Two widely-separated stages (Farm Trails Stage and Gravenstein Stage) will present entertainment on the hour and half hour. More than a dozen groups and about as many musical genres are bound to get fair-goers singing and dancing.

Games and Contests: Spread across both days are such crowd-pleasers as a pie eating contest, apple pie baking contest, caramel apple eating contest, and an apple juggling contest.

Life on the Farm: Thinking about quitting the day job and going into farming? Learn how to work a farm and other details of farm life at a series of events. Among the happenings: a cow milking demo, a farmer panel conversation, a beekeeping demo, sheep shearing demo, and more

Arts & Crafts: Browse artistic creations from dozens of artisans, including photographers, painters, ceramicists and potters, soap makers, jewelry craftspeople, fabric & leather artists, hat-makers, woodcarvers, and many more.

Fun for Kids: Children's Corner has lots of hands-on activities lined up, along with entertainment and other activities (circus performers, puppet folk tales, and more). 

Food: The Chef's Tent will feature demonstrations, recipes. and sampling. The Artisan Tasting Lounge pairs local cheeses and local vintages. And expect many fabulous food vendors covering an international range of treats.

Spirits: Some of the finest that Sonoma County produces can be found in the Wine Tent and the Beer Tent.

What you need to know:

  • Location: Ragle Ranch Regional Park, 500 Ragle Road, Sebastopol.
  • Time: Saturday (8/13): 10 a.m.-6 p.m.; Sunday (8/14): 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
  • Admission:
    • $15/Adults; $12/Seniors & Veterans; $10/Children 6-12; Kids 5 and under are free.
    • Discounted Online Advance Admission: $12/Adults; $8/Children 6-12.
  • Parking:
    • On-site parking at Ragle Ranch Regional Park: $5/day (free with a Sonoma County Regional Parks pass).
    • Free bicycle valet parking to the right of the main fair entrance.
    • Free parking with shuttle buses will be available from the parking lots of O’Reilly Media at 1005 Gravenstein Highway and Holy Ghost Hall at 7960 Mill Station Road.
  • Questions? Call 707-827-3044 

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Written by Sonoma Insider Suzie Rodriguez