What's New at this Year's Sonoma County Harvest Fair

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Wine, food, and family fun on tap October 5, 6 and 7, 2012

One of Sonoma County's most popular annual events is back October 5, 6 and 7, 2012. New at this year's Sonoma County Harvest Fair will be a fun contest for high school-aged budding chefs, as well as cooking competitions for professionals where fair-goers can watch and learn. There also will be a "school" any beer aficionado would love, lots of new farm-themed attractions and activities, some special pricing for admission, and value-focused packages.

Here's more on what's new this year:

Cooking Competitions
Friday, October 5, students from Sonoma County high schools that have culinary programs will be competing in an "Iron Chef" type contest. Participants will each receive the same set of ingredients, and will create their best gastronomic masterpieces. The judging panel will consist of local chefs, restaurateurs and community leaders. High schools represented will include Piner, Maria Carrillo, El Molino, Sonoma Valley, Casa Grande, Healdsburg, and Windsor.

Saturday, October 6, professionals and amateurs will be competing (in separate categories) to see who can create the best grilled cheese sandwich. Only Sonoma County products may be used during the grilled cheese cook-off, including the bread.

And Sunday, October 7, another cooking competition will identify the best quesadilla in the county. Also open to both professionals and amateurs, and made with local ingredients, the quesadilla throw-down will conclude with samples for the audience (professional category only).

The competitions will take place in the Showcase Café. All winners will receive prizes. For more information, including contest times, please visit http://www.harvestfair.org.

Beer School
What could be better for beer lovers than engaging the senses and learning all about their favorite beverage? The new Cheesy Beer School will include a Lagunitas "short course" using five popular microbrews, paired with local cheeses. Attendees will experience aromas of the beers' ingredients, then taste the brews while experts describe how it all comes together.

The courses will run for 20 minutes at 4:30 p.m. Friday; and 1 p.m., 3 p.m., and 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Each session will be limited to 30 participants. People can sign up prior to the fair at http://www.harvestfair.org.

And on Saturday, October 6 from 1-5 p.m. in the fair's village area between the Hall of Flowers and the Garrett Building, there will also be a microbrew tasting sponsored by Lagunitas.

Farm Fun
Kids and parents can experience life on the farm with some of this year's new additions. Sweet Lil's Farmery will be on hand with hatching chicks, barnyard animals, and perhaps best of all, a faux cow kids and adults can milk. Sweet Lil's Farmery will be at the "Stomping Grounds," next to the grape stomp stage, all three days of the fair.

Another hot spot during the entire Harvest Fair will be the new Pumpkin Stage - the setting for not only the giant pumpkin weigh-off, but other pumpkin-themed fun, like carving, painting, and even an Easy Bake Oven bake-off to determine the best pumpkin cake.

Harvest Dog Dash
The County Fair has horse races, and now the Harvest Fair has dog races – but these aren’t greyhounds bred for speed. The Harvest Dog Dash is an endearing, fun, exciting event open (with no entry fee) to all small dog breeds and mixes under 25 pounds.

Saturday and Sunday at 1:30 p.m. in the “Bark Park” (near the village area), there will be qualifying races in three categories:

  •     Youngsters, for puppies 12 months or younger
  •     Teenagers, open to dogs between the ages of 1 and 8 years old
  •     Old timers, for dogs 8 years of age or older

The top dogs in each category will win a prize and go on to compete in a championship race immediately after the qualifying races are complete. The championship winner will receive a trophy, an additional prize, and a commemorative photograph. People may register online, at the fairgrounds office (by dropping off the registration form), or by mail.

Bringing it Home
The Harvest Fair has re-tooled the Marketplace this year. It's where fairgoers can bring home the award winning wines from this year's entries, and a variety of Sonoma County's epicurean bounty. Many of the products available have changed, and this year similar items will be grouped together. For example, there will be areas for olives, cheeses, breads, etc., instead of being grouped by the displays of participating stores. The new layout is designed to make it easier for people to find what they want. The Marketplace will again be in the E.C. Kraft building.

Deals and Packages
Among the special deals and packages this year are:

  •     The Family Pack, available from September 4 until October 4, includes three adult general admissions (13 and over), two child admissions (12 and under) and one parking pass for $35 ($46 value)
  •     Discounted general admission tickets, available from September 4 until October 4, are $8 ($10 value) for Saturday and Sunday, and $5 ($7 value) for Friday
  •     The Wine Passport, which is $40 and includes fair admission, a glass, six taste tickets, and a coupon good for $10 toward a purchase at the Harvest Fair's Marketplace

Returning Favorites
Last year's new Grand Tasting event proved popular with attendees and will be back this year on Friday, October 5, from 5:30 to 8 p.m. All "best of show" and gold medal-winning wines and food will be available for unlimited tastes with ticket purchase.

Tickets for the Grand Tasting are $60 in advance and $70 at the door. Also, tickets can be purchased from September 4 until October 4 in blocks of 10 for $50 each. All Grand Tasting tickets include admission to the fair on Friday.

Also, Saturday and Sunday, October 6 and 7, the Professional Food Competition winners will be serving two-ounce tastings at the Wine Pavilion. Wineries will be pouring tastes of their winning wines, so attendees can make their own food and wine pairings. Tickets for the wine tastings are $15 for a glass and four taste tickets. Fairgoers will also receive one food taste per ticket. Additional tastes can be purchased at a cost of $10 for four tickets.

Of course, the World Championship Grape Stomp will be back this year with more than a dozen qualifying stomps before the big final on Sunday, October 7 at 5 p.m. Most years, even brides and grooms show up in dresses and tuxedos to compete. Anyone is welcome to enter.

This three-day celebration of the Sonoma County lifestyle will also feature chef demonstrations, delicious cuisine, wine seminars, an art exhibition and sale, ongoing musical performances, farm and harvest agricultural activities for children and adults, and much more.

For more information, people can visit the newly redesigned website at http://www.harvestfair.org, or they can call (707) 545-4203.

For further details or high resolution images, journalists are asked to contact Jack Wolf of Wolf Communications, (707) 575-4415, jack@prwolf.com, or Katie Young of the Sonoma County Harvest Fair, (707) 545-4200 x207, deputymanager@sonomacountyfair.com.

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Jack Wolf
Wolf Communications
(707) 575-4415
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Katie Young
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