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40th Anniversary of the Gravenstein Apple Fair

Gravenstein Apple Fair in Sebastopol on Aug 10 & 11, 2013.

For the 40th year in a row, the beloved Sonoma County institution known as the Gravenstein Apple Fair will be held this August (on Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 10-11).

The fair’s antecedents actually date to the early 20th century, back when Sebastopol and the surrounding area were practically synonymous nationwide with the word “apple.” The first-ever Sebastopol Apple Show, as it was then called, took place in 1910. 

“The Show continued on until 1917,” said Carmen Snyder, executive director of Sonoma County Farm Trails and Manager of the Gravenstein Apple Fair.

“It stopped for a while in 1917, probably because of the war, and then started back up in 1922,” she added. “It went on for a few more years and then just died away. Then in 1973 the founders of Farm Trails wanted a fundraiser for the organization and they thought of the old Apple Show. They decided to call it the Gravenstein Apple Fair. So the 40th anniversary reflects the modern fair’s 1973 founding.”

After last year’s sprawling Apple Fair generated disappointed feedback from patrons, this year the fair is returning to its earlier, simpler roots.

“The basic message of last year’s Fair was ‘smaller is sweeter,’” said Snyder. “We’re taking the fair back to its traditional layout, with a smaller footprint, so that everything will be nestled under the oak trees.

“We’ll have a blacksmith there, sheep shearing, goat milking — all the robust life of the farm will have a big presence,” she said. “We’ll have fewer vendors than in the recent past. We just want it to be as quaint and charming and contained as possible.”

Snyder also pointed to a renewed emphasis on apples. “We’ve renamed the wine tent,” she said. “It’s to be a wine and cider tent, highlighting the revival of hand-made ciders. We’ll have an apple pie-baking contest, as usual. We’ll also have pie-eating contests for adults and kids, an apple juggling contest, a caramel apple eating contest.

“We’ll have professional apple jugglers around the grounds. At the chef’s tent all the demos will have something to do with the Gravenstein apple. People get to taste the chef’s creation and take away the recipe. And since we’ll have traditional apple vendors, people can take home a bag of apples, enjoying Dutton, Walker, Koslowski and Solana Gold apples.”

Snyder is actively seeking volunteers. “They get a great package for a four-hour shift,” she said. “They get a whole weekend pass, a T-shirt, we feed them, and they get a beverage pass.”

The Wine & Cider Tent will feature wines from Alexander Valley Vineyards, Atascadero Creek Winery, Hook & Ladder, J Vineyards, Korbel California Champagne, Preston of Dry Creek, Rodney Strong Vineyards, Russian Hill, Toad Hollow Vineyards, Russian River Vineyards, Truett-Hurst and Woodenhead. Cider makers are Apple Sauced Cider and Tilted Shed Ciderworks.

A microbrew tent will also be on hand, featuring Lagunitas Brewing Company and Bear Republic Brewing Company. In addition, a beer wagon will be stocked with Coors and Coors Light.

A big range of food vendors will offer up Greek, Thai, and Bulgarian cuisine, along with barbecue, hot dogs, pizza, Nana Mae Organics, Willie Bird turkeys, and a whole lot more. See the entire list here.

As usual, expect lots of music from groups that include Zydeco Flames, Poor Man’s Whiskey, California Honey Drops, Love Choir, and Buzzy Martin & The Buzztones. See the entire list, with show times here.

Kids will love the Children’s Corner with lots of activities just for them, like games, and contests that include pie-eating, apple juggling, and a three-legged race. A children’s museum will be on site both days, as well as an arts and crafts corner where kids can work with their hands.

And you’ll be able to browse dozens of arts and crafts artisans and vendors specializing in art, ceramics, fiber, home & garden, and jewelry. See the list here.

So, I’ll be seeing you at “the sweetest little fair in Sonoma County.”

What you need to know:

  • Admission:
    • $12/Adults; $10/Seniors, Students & Bikers; $5/Kids under 12; Free for children 3 and under.
    • Purchase at the door or buy in advance on Wednesdays, 10 a.m.-2 p.m., at the Farm Trails office, 1830 Gravenstein Highway South, Sebastopol.
    • No pets allowed.
  • Parking:
    • On-site parking: $5/day.
    • Free shuttles from satellite parking lots (O’Reilly Media at 1005 Gravenstein Highway and Holy Ghost Mall at 7960 Mill Station Road).

Find other events and things to do in Sonoma County.

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