BJ Blanchard: Glen Ellen Village Fair a 'unique extravaganza'

The Glen Ellen fair through downtown.


Acorns are dropping, buckeye leaves are brown and brittle, and the poison oak in the park is scarlet red. In Glen Ellen, we know we are on the edge of fall, and that it’s Glen Ellen Village Fair time.

Sunday, Oct. 8, we celebrate the 27th annual Glen Ellen Village Fair. One day each year on the second Sunday in October, this tradition brings the town to a halt. People you haven’t seen in years appear and you catch up. You gasp at how much little so-and-so has grown. This exuberant festival is enjoyed by locals and friends, but parking is non-existent so best to park at home and walk.

There is history to this unique extravaganza. In the 1940s and ‘50s, when holidaymakers still came up to the many saloons and resorts along the creek, a jolly July 4 fair was held here. Santa Rosa Road – now Arnold Drive – probably recently paved then, was closed off and they held amateur singing contests, watermelon spitting contests, frog jumping competitions and more. This tradition lasted well into the ‘60s, when motorcycle groups – enjoying the Five Nations bar, the Rustic Inn, and other drinking establishments – caused townspeople to feel over-run, and the old fair ended.

Sometime in the early ‘90s, Margie Foster, Shari Glago, Mary Ann Carr, Ann Teller, Cathy Leonard, the Ellmans and others decided to reinstate the celebration and the Glen Ellen Village Fair was born. Some enthusiastic moms started a quilting group which created unique, creative quilts to raffle and provide seed money for the fair. Those quilts included some beauties and won prizes at the County Fair.

So, prepare yourself: The streets are closed at 9:30 a.m., and excitement grows to fever pitch. At noon sharp, the parade leads off from the Carquinez corner and wanders all of two blocks down Arnold to Jack London Ranch Road. The parade, while short, has celebrated many Glen Ellen youngsters. Kids walking their dogs. Hotrods. Miss Sonoma County and Miss Sonoma County’s “outstanding teen,” vintage cars. A fleet of Volkswagens. Dunbar sprogs. High school marching band. The whole small-town shebang.

As always Neil Shepard’s Clydesdales – Willie, Sunny, Gus and Max– will be pulling his splendid wagon with the Parade Grand Marshal atop, waving to the crowd. Consistent with this year’s theme of “A Sense of Community,” the Sonoma Developmental Center itself has been selected as Grand Marshal. Several SDC administrators will ride the wagon with 30 or so SDC residents with their assistants walking alongside.

The last shrieking fire engine siren signals the end of the parade and segues into the fair proper. The first beer is poured at the firefighters booth and the music starts. Ten Foot Tone playing “heart rock, music for the soul” and featuring Glen Ellen kid Jon Williams, the Illegitimate AC/DC, and the Jami Jamison Band featuring jazz, blues and swing inviting you to “dance up a storm,” will all play live on the main stage by the post office. Up the road, at the foot of Carquinez will be the younger crowd, presenting Radar, the Trips, RockCats and more.

Over 80 booths are scheduled to line the streets. Load up on pottery, jewelry, yard art, paintings, photography and more. Food vendors will include beer and wine and a good laugh served by local firefighters, the traditional Aunt Betty’s Gourmet Corn Dog for your corn dog fix, Java Wagon for coffee drinks, smoothies, shaved ice and Italian sodas. There’ll be mobile eateries like Tri-Tips Trolley providing sandos and six-cheese mac’n’cheese, Got Balls Meat Ball Factory serving substantial meatball-themed eats, Talk of the Town with burritos, tacos quesadillas and frozen artisan cream and fruit bars, Famous Jonny’s Cannolis truck with ice cream and cannolis. Jack London Saloon will be open for business.

Kids Alley has been revitalized this year. St. Francis Solano School will run Kids Alley along the north end of Carmel, with carnival-style games and all proceeds going to the Sonoma Catholic school. Gone is the dunk tank where kids had a chance to dunk their favorite teacher, but in its place will be a jumpy house, pony rides from Ponies R Us, Popo the clown, face painting, craft projects and more.

Tradition holds a community together. This tradition is a doozie, and Leslie Vaughn, Fair Association president, encourages all to come as “there is something for everyone!”

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