Event: Cloverdale Citrus Fair

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The Cloverdale Citrus Fair

It was a beautiful spring morning, and my weekend was wide open before me like a freshly peeled orange.  I had only heard of the Cloverdale Citrus Fair, but I had never gone and I didn’t know what to expect.  I had visions of oranges and grapefruits and lemon-themed events, but I tried my best to leave my expectations in my other pair of pants.  I can honestly say that I saw something at this fair that was truly unique.  It involved a washboard, yellow lumberjack hardhats, revolving horses, and Ozzy Osborne.  More about that later.

The Citrus Fair is Sonoma County’s northernmost fair, but getting there was easy.  No need to plug directions into your GPS; just head north on the 101 and take the conveniently-named Citrus Fair Drive exit.  The Cloverdale Citrus Fair began its existence as a small country fair, celebrating the region’s local citrus industry.  2013 marked the 121st year of the fair showcasing family entertainment with a small town feel.  The theme this year was “Polynesian A’Fair,” and Saturday kicked off with a parade down Cloverdale’s main drag.  I highly recommend the parade.  It was the best part of the fair.

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Maybe it was the warm sunshine.  Maybe it was a hint of spring on the breeze.  Maybe it was the promise of corndogs and lemonade or the promise of the midway.  Maybe…but most likely, the cause of my giant grin was the unexpected whirling tornado of energy and music that was the Humboldt State University Marching Lumberjacks who charged in right behind the Cloverdale Fire and Rescue team and really fired up the crowd with their devil-may-care, torpedoes-be-darned, free-for-all performance.  The HSU marching band really understood that marching bands are two parts music, two parts energy, one part performance, and twenty-seven parts presence.  Their enthusiasm, their sound, and their bright yellow, “this is my freaking costume” get-ups made them a welcome tangy taste to this Citrus Fair’s otherwise sweet flavor.  After their musical number, many band members ran down the parade route, high-fiving the kids and anyone sticking out a hand.  They turned the parade into a party, and we were all invited.  They are referred to as  “the only remaining, real scatter band from a public university and the only scatter-marching band in the known universe.”  They’ve been in a movie, appeared on TV, and have been pictured in many magazines and newspapers, including National Geographic.  I recommend checking out their website at www.kissouraxe.com.

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The rest of the parade was what one would hope from a small town parade.  There were vintage cars, shriners, a pet parade, and Supervisor Mike McGuire (doling out candy and handshakes).  There were veterans and their vintage army jeeps, including one WWII vet in a motorcycle sidecar with a sign that read:  “Young at heart, but slightly older in other parts.”  The local fire department paraded their shiny red trucks and sounded their sirens, which both delighted and frightened the little boy standing in front of me in equal measure.  The Citrus fair queen and her court rode by, demurely poking out of the sun roofs of their tiny, shiny Fiat hatchbacks.  Many of the smiling people marching, riding, and parading down South Cloverdale Drive threw candy at for the kids who dove at the asphalt to snatch up the sugary goodness until the curbside resembled Halloween in spring.

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After the parade, I made my way into the fairgrounds themselves.  The entrance was through an exhibit hall filled with Polynesian-themed, partially-citrus-based displays.  The official rules now require a minimum of ninety dozen citrus fruits be used in an exhibit, half of which are to be oranges.  I appreciated the artistry and humor the clubs and organizations put into the exhibits.  Besides a sign indicating “all about citrus,” and “10 reasons to eat your citrus fruit,” I wanted to see more citrus (other than the lemonade stand, shaped like a giant lemon).

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There were the usual assortment of merchants and vendors hawking their wares, carnival games and rides, bad-for-you-but-oh-so-tasty fair food, and the sort of arts and crafts one would expect to see at a fair.  There was a 4H club pygmy goat judging, a talented magician/juggler named Greg Frisbee, and a petting zoo.  But the most memorable moment of the day came when I stepped off the merry-go-round just as a yellow-clad thronging mass of marching band came swooping up to the ride.  My first thought was, “What are they doing?”  Followed closely by, “No way!” and “They can’t all fit on that carousel, can they?”  The answer, by the way, is no, one can not fit an entire university marching band on a small carnival merry-go-round.  But the HSU Marching Lumberjacks gave it the old college try.

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As the ride began to spin, the entire band began to play.  Imagine, if you will, about twenty-five college students with noisemakers packed onto a small, twenty-person-maximum merry-go-round belting out Ozzy Osborne’s “Crazy Train” while another thirty or so band members blasted away from the sidelines.  It was a whirling frenzy of music and smiles.  It’s something I never would have expected to see.  It was loud, absurd, silly, startling, and downright fun!  While the fair and the parade was a great slice of Americana, the Humboldt State University Marching Lumberjacks made this an a’fair I’ll certainly never forget.

by Peter Rogers

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