Glen Ellen Village Fair set for Sunday
NEIL SHEPARD guides his Clydesdale team in a 360-degree turn during the 2011 Glen Ellen Village Fair. Shepard and his popular horses will appear this Sunday for the two-block parade that begins at noon.
Index-Tribune file photo
Sonoma Valley overflows with special events and festivals, but few it the level of hometown charm achieved by the Glen Ellen Village Fair, set for this Sunday, Oct. 14, from noon to 5 p.m. While Sonoma’s northern hamlet feels like a shade of Mayberry come fair day, that wasn’t always the case.
Throughout the 1960s, the fair, sometimes called the Glen Ellen Arts Festival, was a popular two-day celebration of crafts, food and wine where friends and neighbors enthusiastically gathered. But over the years, a seedy element settled in, casting a dark shadow over the event. Locals blamed the motorcycle gangs that frequented the former Rustic Inn, which stood in the space currently occupied by the Glen Ellen Village Market.
“Approximately 30 motorcycle riding (rowdies) … invaded our peaceful, law-abiding community, striking fear in the hearts of men, women and children of this peaceful community, by their violent and aggressive attitude, causing many to depart from the fair because of the attendant danger presented by this violent and potentially dangerous element, dressed in their black jackets and boots with their loud motorcycles,” stated a letter to the editor printed Aug. 14, 1969, in the Index-Tribune, signed by Mr. and Mrs. Wm. Colling, Mr. and Mrs. Don Shone, Angelo Pedroncelli and Capt. and Mrs. Philip G. Kirby.
That same year, the fair was shut down following an altercation between law enforcement and area youth. The 1969 front-page headline read, “Deputies averted major riot at Glen Ellen Fair, arrests made” and the story details how two Sheriff’s deputies were accosted with beer cans while trying to break up an argument, which ended in a cloud of Mace.
While the fair carried on for another few years, interest continued to dwindle until the fair finally fizzled out. Skip forward through time to 1990, when an ambitious crew of volunteers came together with one mission: to revive the beloved fair for a new generation. In the 22 years since its rebirth, the fair has reclaimed its place as one of those down-home, family events that define the community of Glen Ellen.
“People in the community have doggedly and lovingly worked to keep this thing going,” said Leslie Vaughn, who has stepped up as president of the fair board this year. “It’s truly a wonderful event. It really takes you back to those small, hometown fairs.”
As usual, the fair begins with a festive parade of classic cars, horse-drawn carriages and community groups. This year’s grand marshals are Michael Witkowski, Sandy Lane, Sandi Everett, Melissa Gossett, Linda Steinberg and, posthumously, Kathleen Krempely.
“We don’t have a whole lot of people sign up before the parade, a lot of people just show up the day of. Sometimes it’s really short, sometimes it’s long,” Vaughn said. Those who would like to reserve a spot can contact Trina at 935-9030. All parade participants should be there by 10:30 a.m.
During the event, Arnold Drive is shut down to traffic, as vendor booths line the street offering everything from hand-painted scarves and reversible cotton pants to glitter tattoos and vintage linens. Live music continues throughout the day including performances from the Solcats, Buck Nickles and Loose Change, Traffic Jam and the Cork Pullers. Food booths range from corn dogs and cotton candy to tandoori and Thai food, while the Glen Ellen firefighters will sell beer and wine by the glass.
“The firefighters use their liquor license and so they benefit from the beer sales,” Vaughn said.
For the little ones, Kids Alley is the place to be. Teen volunteers run games of skill and chance, such as beanbag tosses, fishing games and the popular dunk tank. Kids can purchase a punch card for $3 (or two for $5), which gives them access to all of the games along with two turns in the cake walk and a goodie bag to take home.
Volunteers are still sought to help in Kids Alley, and donations of baked goods for the cake-walk are also needed. To help, contact Shannon Lee at email@example.com or 996-3352.
The day ends with the popular quilt raffle. A feature of the fair since its rebirth, quilters lend their talents to create squares of a quilt, which is raffled off to provide seed money for the next year’s fair. This year’s theme is FANtastic Glen Ellen, with 20 squares, each with its own fan design. Raffle tickets sell for $2 each, three for $5, seven for $10 or 15 for $20, and will be available up until the drawing at 5 p.m.
“It’s a wonderful event and everyone’s invited,” Vaughn said. “But you’ve got to get there early, it fills up fast.”