Family Fun Awaits at the Tolay Fall Festival 2013

Tolay Fall Festival - Sonoma County

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Family Fun Awaits at the Tolay Fall Festival 2013

Come celebrate the autumn season in Sonoma County with pumpkins, hayrides, seed-spitting contests, gunnysack races, good food, and lots of old-fashioned, wholesome and sometimes unusual activities at the annual Tolay Fall Festival.

One of Sonoma County's most popular yearly events, in 2013 the two-weekend celebration reigns over Tolay Lake Regional Park on Oct. 12-13 and 19-20.

As usual, this festival has something to offer everybody, no matter their age. But there's no denying that it's a must-do for families with young kids. Youngsters will walk away with memories that will last forever.

And no wonder. They'll spend the day doing things like:

  • Exploring the 'Nighttime Creatures Barn,' which offers exhibits of native and exotic snakes, birds of prey, tide pool animals, and taxidermied wildlife.
  • Creeping into the 'Creepy Crawly Room,' where tarantulas and scorpions glow under black lights.
  • Taking a hayride to a pumpkin patch in the park's back 40, where they'll search for the perfect Halloween pumpkin.
  • Visiting a replica of a Native American village.
  • Trying ancient farm activities like wool carding and candle dipping.
  • Competing in the World-Record Pumpkin-Seed Spitting Contest for a chance to win an exclusive title and a year of bragging rights. Here's a list of the 2012 winners.
  • Joining experts in archery, fly fishing and astronomy for hands-on demonstrations.
  • Participating in gunnysack races, finding their way through a straw maze, and petting barnyard animals.
  • Enjoying food and desserts from local vendors or bring your own picnic of family favorites to enjoy at the park. Food vendors on hand include: Willie Bird's Turkey, Russotti's Dogs, Dad & Son's Gourmet BBQ, and El Coronel Taco Truck. You can also expect special treats like shaved ice, kettle corn, pie and coffee.

The lineup of exhibitors with educational and entertaining displays, as well as  hands-on activities, includes Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria, Marin Museum of the American Indian, The Olompali People, Miwok Archeological Preserve of Marin (MAPOM), Beekind Honey, Barlas Boer Goats, and Hawk Watch.

Also attending are Early Day Gas Engines and Tractor Association, Leland Fly Fishing Outfitters, Sonoma County Astronomical Society, Sonoma County Bowmen, Sonoma County Mounted Assistance Unit, Sonoma County Reptile Rescue, Marin/Sonoma Mosquito & Vector Control District, the Bird Rescue Center, Fawn Rescue, and Petaluma High School Wildlife Museum.

Tolay Lake Regional Park is located between Sonoma Valley and the Petaluma River. The 1,769-acre historical property, once known as the Cardoza Ranch, consists of farm land and grasslands, ridges, a seasonal freshwater lake, ponds, wetlands, and other natural resources.

It's home to a few species that have special status, including the burrowing owl, the California red-legged frog, the golden eagle, and the white tailed kite.

Human activity at the park dates back at least 8,000 years. In pre-history, it was the site of seasonal settlement by Coast Miwok, Pomo and other Indians. The seasonal lake was a sacred place, an historic spiritual center for Indians throughout California. Sacred stones, known as 'charmstones,' were deposited in the lake for thousands of years.

What you need to know:

Getting there: Petaluma's Tolay Lake Regional Park is at 5869 Lakeville Highway, at the end of Cannon Lane. View a map and get directions, and/or download a map of Tolay Lake Regional Park

When to come: It's best to come on weekends, since weekdays are largely given over to school groups. Weekend hours: 11 a.m.-5 p.m.

Admission fee is $4/teens and adults; $1/children 12 and younger. Free for Regional Parks' members (one-time admission for two adults and two children, along with free parking by presenting their parks membership card at the entrance). Once you're inside the festival, all activities are free.

Parking fee: Free for Regional Parks' members, otherwise it's $7.

Information: Tolay Lake Regional Park

Find more info about Things to Do, Restaurants, and Hotels & Lodging in Sonoma County.

Suzie Rodriguez