Sonoma youth gear up for fair
COURTNEY MACKLING and her steer, Husker, are preparing to take part in the Sonoma County Fair next week.
It’s been 76 years since the very first Sonoma County Fair was held on the fairgrounds in Santa Rosa. Since then, the carnival rides have gotten flashier, the food has become increasingly greasy and the livestock area has continued to grow. Yet the camaraderie, good cheer and good times have remained constant year after year, prompting thousands to make the fair a yearly tradition.
The 2012 Sonoma County Fair promises many of the familiar attractions, from the goofy contests to the intense races; from the colorful Hall of Flowers to the equally colorful lights of the carnival rides.
But one of the most interesting attractions the fair offers is the livestock exhibition and auction. Every year, youth from Sonoma raise animals, tenderly caring for their pig, sheep or steer, before showing it off to an eager audience and a panel of judges. The animals are judged for their fur or coat, their weight, their willingness to be led and a variety of other factors, as youth are judged on their presentation of the animal. At the end of the day, bidders pay top dollar for the best animals.
The Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn is one such bidder, and they make it a priority to purchase livestock from Sonoma students. Fairmont Public Relations Manager Michelle Heston explained, “We - the Sonoma Fairmont - purchase directly from the Sonoma Valley High School Agriculture Department. This year, the Fairmont San Francisco is planning to purchase two pigs at the county fair from Sonoma youth.”
She continued, “We’re paying about market price. Average market price is around $3, and we’ve agreed to go as far as $4 per pound. At the Fairmont Sonoma and Fairmont San Francisco, we have a focus on locally-sourced foods and incorporate them as often as possible. We’re proud to support the ag program at SVHS, and support the students involved.”
Courtney Mackling, who will be a senior in the fall, is one such student.
This year, she raised a market steer named Husker, who will participate in the Junior Market Show as well as the Showmanship Competition. Mackling explains, “In the Junior Market Show, Husker will be judged on appearances, like how muscular he is and how much he weighs; and then I’m judged on showmanship – basically, how well I present him to the judges.”
The better Husker does in the Junior Market Show in the opinion of the judges, the more money he will fetch at the subsequent auction on Aug. 4.
Raising Husker required long hours and dedication, but Mackling considers it a labor of love. “I bathed, blow-dried, fed him twice a day, worked with him to prepare for the fair, and regularly checked for diseases, among other things.”
Husker, who is approximately a year and three months old – still a calf – is at a prime age. His meat, according to Mackling, will be very fresh, as opposed to older steers where the meat is more aged.
When asked about how she manages the tough process of selling her steer for slaughter, Mackling thoughtfully replies, “It’s very tough, very emotional, but it is how a lot of us get our food. The animals are a resource, really. And although it does make me sad, there is a sense of accomplishment that comes from raising an animal you can be proud of.”
This is Mackling’s third year raising animals for the fair. In 2010, she raised two sheep; in 2011, she raised a steer, which passed away of unknown causes months before the fair.
Her experience with animals has offered Mackling a possible direction for the future. “I’ll definitely raise animals next year … I’m looking to raise two steers. And I also have an interest in studying animal science in college,” she concluded. Husker and Mackling will be at the fair beginning on July 31.
Entertainment and events at the Sonoma County Fair
The Sonoma County Fair is jam-packed with things to do, all day, every day, during its duration from July 25 to Aug. 12 at the Santa Rosa Fairgrounds. Here is just a taste of what’s in store, for the whole lineup of events check out sonomacountyfair.com.
• The Opening Day Sidewalk Procession will take place on the evening of Wednesday, July 25, at approximately 7 p.m. Beginning at Fourth and E streets in Santa Rosa, the public is invited to join the procession to the fairgrounds. Participants in the parade gain free entry to the fair and a commemorative ribbon.
• The Singing Sensations Contest will take place on Friday, July 27, in the Redwood Theatre, with the Junior Singing Sensations Contest on Saturday, July 28.
• Country artist Martina McBride will be performing Tuesday, Aug. 7, in the Chris Beck Arena. Floor tickets are $50; grandstand tickets are $30.
• Third Eye Blind will be performing in the Chris Beck Arena on Wednesday, Aug. 8. Floor and box tickets are $30; grandstand tickets are $20.
• Pop princess Miranda Cosgrove will be performing Thursday, Aug. 9, in the Chris Beck Arena. Floor and box tickets are $30; grandstand tickets are $20.
• Jim Belushi and the Sacred Hearts Band will be performing in the Chris Beck Arena on Friday, Aug. 10. Floor and box tickets are $30, grandstand tickets are $20
• The Battle of the Teen Bands will be taking place on Saturday, Aug. 11, in the Redwood Theater at 7 p.m. The deadline to enter is Saturday, July 21.
• The Hall of Flowers will be open for the Bon Voyage! Preview Party, a sneak preview of the gardens and a champagne reception, on the evening of Tuesday, July 24, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $25 and all proceeds go to the Hall of Flowers Scholarship Fund.
The theme for this year’s Hall of Flowers is “Ports of Call.” The displays are based on a variety of cities, such as Barcelona, St. Thomas and Rio de Janeiro. There will be a Fair Flower Plant Show on Monday, Aug. 13, where anyone can purchase some of the flowers used in the exhibit.
• Accepting entries in the categories of home art, photography, baked goods, gardens and more, the non-livestock competitive exhibits for children and adults offer a litany of interesting artifacts in Kraft, Garrett, and Finley Halls.
• A new attraction at the fair this year, Greentivities teaches the community how to “reduce, reuse, recycle” through unique exhibits and hands-on demonstrations. Featuring more than 3,800 square feet of exhibits, Greentivities encourages kids and adults alike to come play while learning how to reduce their impact on the earth.
• Grace Pavilion will host many a vendor throughout the duration of the fair. Need a knife that slices through pennies? They’ve got that. A portable steam room? Check the fair. Perhaps you need a weight that you shake back and forth. If you’ve seen it on TV, it’s likely to be found at the fair.
The fair never disappoints with the variety of carnival rides, and this year is no exception. From the Ferris wheel to the haunted mansion to the carousel, there are rides at the fair for young children and adults alike. Carnival tickets and wristbands vary in price, but the fair is offering pre-sales deals up to July 24, as well as a variety of discount days.
• Get your fill of fur and wool at the Livestock Exhibit, and support Sonoma youth as they show off their animals during various auctions. The livestock area also offers a petting zoo, where patrons are free to watch baby chicks poke out of their shells or gently pet calves, goats and the like. Fair-goers also have the option to tour the area on a horse-pulled wagon, which goes through the sheep barns, cattle barns and the livestock area. Various livestock auctions take place July 26 through Aug. 12, with sheep, pigs, steer and cattle in abundance.
• The horse races, which were the foundation of the fair back in 1936, are still a huge part of the fair today. Races take place Wednesdays through Sundays during the fair, with a daily post time of 1:15 p.m.
• The Derby Dog Dash, a competitive race for small dogs happens every Sunday during the fair. Now a huge hit of the Sonoma County Fair, large crowds often turn out for the Derby Dog Dash, so arrive early for the best view. Think your dog is up for the challenge? Entry forms are available at derbydogdash.com
General admission tickets are $10, but if purchased before July 24, the cost is $8 for adult tickets. Tickets for children 7 to 12 years old are $5; children under 6 are granted free admission. Tickets for events and attractions vary in price, but can usually be purchased online or at the fairgrounds.
For more information on the numerous attractions at the 2012 Sonoma County Fair, visit sonomacountyfair.com or call the fairgrounds at 545-4200.