It's not as colorful as the Santa Rosa Rose Parade or the Sonoma County Fair, but it's far older. In fact the Cloverdale Citrus Fair is the longest-running annual community fair in northern California, and with its February date it's usually the first such of the calendar year.
Which means it sometimes - not always, but sometimes - rains. Be prepared.
Just as it was in its first year, 1893 - 120 years ago, making this the 121st fair to be held - it's a down-home event focused on agriculture, local talent, and family. Of course the agriculture has changed; the "oranges, lemons and olives in the vicinity [enough] to make a magnificent display” bragged about at the first fair are not quite so abundant this year, except for the olives; wine grapes have replaced fruit trees throughout much of Sonoma County.
It all kicks off with a Pre-Fair Dance on Thursday February 14, from 7 to 10 p.m., featuring covers band Double Standyrd. The $15 for dance and appetizers is a down-home bargain.
The Cloverdale Citrus Fair officially begins on Friday, and continues through Monday the 18th, taking advantage of the President's Day holiday. The theme this year is “Polynesian A’Fair”, a theme that should be evident throughout the weekend. The dinner theater presentation is "Hulas and Homicide" on Saturday and Sunday; while Polynesian Dancers are Sunday’s featured entertainment with shows at 2 and 4:30 p.m. Featured outdoor concert on Monday is Court 'n Disaster.
Another highlight is the Citrus Fair Queen Scholarship Program, held on Friday evening at 7:30 p.m. in the Cloverdale Citrus Fair auditorium. Contestants are high school girls between 16 and 19, who carry at least a 3.0 grade average. They are judged on poise and appearance in an interview with the judges and on stage, in addition to a small talent segment. Last year's contestants and winner can be found on the fair website here; you can find out about this year's contestants on Friday night.
Of course most people show up for the Midway (carnival rides), which seems to get better every year. This year's Midway includes the celebrated Zipper, a 16-seat Ferris wheel, the zig-and-zag Haywire, a Gravitron, a Cyclone and of course the Carousel, among many others found on this webpage. Discount pre-sale wristbands are $20 for unlimited rides, $25 at the fair; individual carnival tickets are $1 each.
There are many highlights throughout the weekend, too many to list here - so we include a PDF of the fair's event with this article. The range is broad - from gourmet chefs to an orange juicing contest, pygmy goats and Frisbee shows, teen talent and "balloonacy."
There's even wine-tasting: While city-dwellers are packing the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition public tasting at Fort Mason this weekend (for $85), Citrus Fair visitors can sample the same wines on Sunday at 1 p.m. - the Chronicle's winning wines were chosen last month at the Cloverdale Wine Tasting, for considerably less.
Admission charges are just $7 to get in the door, $5 for seniors or juniors; weekend passes are available. Now that's down-home.