While fatty foods, heart-pounding rides and wacky carnival games remain big draws at the Sonoma County Fair, there’s much more to see and do as the event heads into its second weekend. Here’s a walkthrough of exhibits and activities you might miss if you head straight for the lobster dogs.
The first thing you’ll notice upon passing through the main entrance is the giant Oink sculpture in front of the carnival. Artists Laura Kimpton and Jeff Schomberg created it as part of a six-word Monumental Word Series launched in 2009 at Burning Man in Nevada. Kimpton and Schomberg loaned the Oink sculpture to this year’s fair, as it reflected the fair theme of “Down on the Farm.” On a sign next to the sculpture, it explains how Schomberg, who lived on a ranch in Nicasio with a number of pigs, came to understand that “Oink” meant, “Everything’s OK.”
A little way down from the sculpture is the Garden Building, where families can enjoy “Greentivities.” Games and interactive learning emphasize the need to preserve the environment. In the Toss Out Fossil Fuels game, kids are challenged to knock down blocks with various fossil fuels written on them, such as oil, coal and gas, and avoid hitting “clean solutions,” like bicycling. In the Recycle Swish, players try to make baskets with compostable items, recycling, garbage and more. Other booths in the exhibit include the Reptile Expo with slithering snakes and scaly reptiles, and a gallery of fashionable clothing created almost entirely of upcycled material.
Exit the back of the Garden Building, and you’ll find yourself in what appears to be an extension of the Hall of Flowers. In this outdoor area, gardeners have created scaled-down versions of gardens, landscaping a plot with flowers and items that are generally provided by local nurseries. Of note is the row right next to the Garden Building. These garden plots have been planted with the creative green thumbs of junior exhibitors. A walk through this row will give you a glimpse of how our future gardeners will keep Sonoma County beautiful.
After exiting the garden area, turn left and continue toward the back of the fair. On the left, you’ll come across a virtual reality experience that lets participants do everything from race cars to drive around on Mars. A nearby rock wall climb is a scaled-down version of Mount Rushmore, with an enticing prize of cash at the top. The Power Jump gives people the ability to reach incredible heights through a trampoline and pulleys. The popular Walk on Water includes giant inflated balls on water with human hamsters zipped up inside. It is as much fun to watch people try to remain standing as it is to actually be inside the ball. These activities require an additional cost of $5 to $10 on top of the fair’s ticket prices.
Further down the road, head toward the Lyttle Cow Palace on your left. You’ll find Sweet Lil’s Farmery, a barnyard play area geared toward kids but enticing to anyone who loves baby animals. Each day, there is also a scarecrow-building contest at 12:30 p.m., and an un-building contest at 6:30 p.m.
Head into the heart of the livestock area, but watch where you step! This is where you will find plenty of larger animals, such as steers and hogs. You can also view some of the smaller animals in the Fur and Feathers building, where rabbits, cavies and chickens are making their home until the end of the fair.
Start heading back, and you may notice a commotion going on next to the Finley Hall at the BackDoor Stage. It is here where you can sit in the bleachers and rest your feet and take in a free show. This weekend, be sure to catch the 1880s Variety Show, a theatrical performance that combines funny jabs with songs you can sing along with.
If you have kids, don’t let them miss out on the fair’s Farm Facts Treasure Hunt. Visit any one of the information booths for a Treasure Hunt Book. Then collect stamps at the strategically placed booths around the fairgrounds. When done, kids can trade in their booklets for a prize.
The fair is open daily, except for Mondays, through Aug. 9. For more information, go to www.sonomacountyfair.com.