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OCTOBER 15, 2022 - Another Glen Ellen Village Fair for the record books

Another Glen Ellen Village Fair for the record books
The 2022 Glen Ellen Village Parade Grand Marshals Kevin and Leslie Vaughn are driven in a Willys Jeep by Katie Dunham-Estupiñan, who happens to be the daughter of last year’s Grand Marshal, Rick Dunham.Photo by Melissa Dowling

OCTOBER 15, 2022

By BJ Blanchard

The relief from peril and pestilence was palpable! Last Sunday at the Glen Ellen Village Fair, joy and laughter burst out along Arnold Drive and overflowed into the side streets of tiny Glen Ellen. The delight was profound, as everyone recalled “that windy night after the fair” five years ago, when everything changed. But this day was clear and warm; Glen Ellen was back in the saddle.

The eight-minute-long parade lurched along Arnold Drive from Carquinez to London Ranch Road, as it has before. The Scouts trooped the colors, ancient Volkswagens rambled along, generations of Dunbar Dolphins waved to the crowd. The Town Quilters displayed this year’s quilt, which celebrates fair T-shirts from years’ past. The O’Donnell Lane dogs, and their friends, marched with mutts in matching kerchiefs; flutists from the Sonoma Valley High School’s marching band fluted; sparkling Hannah Hindley danced on stilts; and the fair’s Grand Marshals, Leslie and Kevin Vaughn, who have contributed so much to the town, waved from Rick Dunham’s 1945 Willys Jeep.

But when the fire equipment started coming — the Glen Ellen engine, the CAL FIRE equipment — the crowd whooped and hollered its grateful appreciation. Missed was the colossal dozer that literally saved half the town five years ago.

After the parade, the usual jumble of neighbors ambled along Arnold Drive in autumn sunlight to enjoy the event. Aunt Betty’s Corn Dogs is always a big hit. TriTip Trolley served burgers and fries. The Sonoma Valley Firefighters booth provided beer and wine.

On the bridge, the Glen Ellen Historical Society presented historic photos and an alternative to developers at the Sonoma Developmental Center. Sonoma Mountain Preservation promoted its environmental concerns. The Sonoma Ecology Center was represented. Down the way, KSVY Radio provided on-air harmonious accompaniment to the frivolity. The Jack London Yacht Club was present and accounted for, always up for frivolity and laughter with a spectacular float that was honored by the parade judges. Old friends embraced, newcomers were awed, strangers danced and hugged.

This fair has roots in the 1880s, when vacationers came up from San Francisco to camp on the creek banks and stay at the many local resorts. In the 1960s, as Jim Berkland related, the fair was revived as an “arts festival,” featuring watermelon seed-spitting contests, blackberry pie-eating contests, poetry reading, and more, until rowdy motorcycle clubs or inertia caused it to fade away.

Subsequently, 31 years ago, in response to a controversy about what would go into the forlorn vacant lot at the corner where the Village Market is now and the Rustic Inn was (one idea was to make it a Wild West-themed strip mall), Margie Foster, Shari Glago, and several members of the Glen Ellen Association (a predecessor of the Glen Ellen Forum) came up with the idea of a revitalized event they called the Old-Fashioned Country Festival — and were surprised when they actually got a permit to close down the street for the day.

Sunday’s fair continued the tradition of this sweet fair for locals, by locals, and of locals, and continues to be a focal point of the community.

And where else can you get a hug from your county supervisor, talking with the crowd, enjoying a corn dog alongside her neighbors and friends?