Last Sunday I attended the annual Gravenstein Apple Fair in the quaint small town of Sebastopol. I still remember the first time I visited the fair, years ago, during my first ever trip to California as an exchange student. I remember driving home after the fair with the van loaded with boxes of apples. Over the following days, these apples were turned into pies, pies, and more pies.
Even for someone like me, who came from an Italian family who likes to cook and bake from scratch, it was astonishing to see how many apples and how many pies. But it was fun, and the pies were delicious. And there was a big freezer!
The Gravenstein Apple Fair has been held annually for forty-two years, and is organized on a volunteer basis as Sonoma County Farm Trails’ primary annual fundraiser. All proceeds go towards supporting sustainable agriculture in Sonoma County, a very worthy endeavor.
Last year I missed the event, so this year I made a point of marking my calendar. At ten am on Sunday I was among the first to enter the fair, which took place under the beautiful trees of Ragle Ranch Regional Park.
The first thing I saw by the entrance was that big apple mosaic you see in the image further up. The next thing I saw was a woman holding hot apple fritters and I made a mental note: find the stand and get some fritters!
The nice man in the image above was part of the apple fritters stand, enticing passers-by to the call of: “Apple fritters! Nothing like apple fritters in the morning!” Or at any time, that’s what I think.
I am showing you the apple fritters right away, though I did not find the stand till later on, and only ate some after I was done taking photos. It can get messy eating apple fritters with a big camera around your neck. You know, powder sugar goes everywhere.
First I walked around as fast as I could taking photos, chasing the shade because I knew that the already strong sunlight would get even stronger very quickly.
In my memory bank of my previous visits, I had images of apple vendors all over the place, and a lot of pie stands. Instead this year there were just a couple of stands selling apples, and two, maybe three selling apple pies. I asked one of the apple vendors and she explained that, yes it used to be like that, but not anymore and not in some time. A lot of the growers have given up apples and turned to the popular crop-du-jour: grapes. Apparently, that is an easier one. I wouldn’t have thought so, with all the work and time that goes into grapes, but then I don’t know much about growing apples, only about eating them and baking them into cakes.
Beyond Gravenstein Apples, the fair featured a lot of arts and crafts, and a lot of food, most looking really, really good. And here I wold like to give extra kudos to those vendors who took the trouble of going the extra mile to not only provide quality but present it beautifully. You will see a lot of them featured in my images.
The Fair also featured several entertainment areas, including two stages where bands and performers alternated, and areas of long picnic tables with hay bales for benches where people could go and rest while eating the yummy food purchased from the many booths.
As I walked around taking pics, I made mental notes of what I wanted to go back and buy once I was done, like the divine looking hand-crafted chocolates in the images above, which turned out to be delicious.
Apples and cheese go really well together, so why not have a Cheese Lounge? I thought this one looked just perfect. If I had stayed longer I would have definitely gone to one of the scheduled tastings.
Something that I found really fascinating was the display of vintage farm machinery, most of which were fully operational.
And some modern equipment…
I had heard a lot of good things about The Farmer’s Wife food stand, and knew they were going to be at the fair. The plan was to have one of their sandwiches for lunch, but, though their menu looked really tempting, the apple fritters happened first so I had to pass because I was quite full. I do know, however, that they are also at the San Rafael Farmers’ Market as well at the Ferry Building one in San Francisco, so I will be making a point of catching them there.
In the shade of cluster of large trees some animals hung out in their large pens, getting a lot of fuss and attention especially from children. There was a goat with her little baby, some alpacas, a couple of miniature donkeys and this beautiful and very pregnant cow. Sweet cow, I apologize, I do not remember your name.
I am always concerned for animals in these situations, though these seemed genuinely cherished farm animals, as opposed to being part of a petting zoo.
And what would an apple fair be without caramel apples! These looked both beautiful and delicious.
I feel that every country fair should have its own Fairy selling beautifully crafted magical pieces, don’t you think?
Once I was done with all the photo, and, as you have seen, those were a lot, I hung my camera around my neck and made the rounds again to pick up the goodies I had noticed: some chocolates, some lovely soaps and lotions, a whole pie, a bag of apples and…. You know it! I just had to go back for more fritters to take home and share with the hungry mouths waiting for me.
I had actually meant to pick up more things, but my hands were full and I simply forgot. When I am out taking photos by myself with my heavy gear I am limited as to what else I can do, carry and… well, eat.
It was around noon, hot and getting crowded, so I decided it was time to head back to my car, grateful to have found a parking spot in the shade and looking forward to air conditioning.
I hope you have enjoyed this walk through the Gravenstein Apple Fair with me. Maybe you will be inspired to bake a cake, or make some caramel apples, or cider, or… oh yes, some apple fritters! I am still thinking about those apple fritters. The ones I took home disappeared pretty fast. 😉
If you bought some apples, you might like to bake this really easy and really good cake, which is a classic family recipe in Italy:
While if you are ready for some wonderful desserts you don’t have to bake, you can stop by at this patisserie, right in Sebastopol: