The unofficial last weekend of summer is also the best weekend of summer in the northern region of California wine country. For a four-day span of Labor Day weekend, from Sept. 1 to 4, the Lake County Fair brings the Lake County region together for a classic, all-American celebration with carnival rides, live music, races of every stripe and of course your favorite fair food like corn dogs, elephant ears and deep-fried foods of every imaginable variety. Held at the Lake County Fairgrounds in Lakeport, the Lake County Fair dates way back to 1880 and still stands as a first-rate festival of the farmers, ranchers and creative folks both young and old who make Lake County such a great place to eat, drink and enjoy.
But our four-legged friends always steal the show at any county fair, and the 2016 Lake County Fair theme is “Party with the Animals.” Lake County animals play a special role in this agricultural region that’s known as pear capital of the world and produces so much good beef, walnuts, winegrapes and other fruits. You’ll find all the 4-H booths and livestock exhibits that make county fairs such a special tradition in the American fabric, with animal exhibits featuring sheep, rabbits, horses, goats and many of Lake County’s fantastic furry residents.
Your admission to the Lake County Fair comes with a whole array of free shows and grandstand events. The fair kicks off Thursday evening with an encore of the popular Fiesta of the Horse that features show horse teams, exotic horses, old-time jousting, cowboy tricks and all manner of horsing around. All weekend long, the grandstand plays host to motorcycle races, stock car races and—with Forbes Creek running right through the fairgrounds—even boat races.
But the Lake County Fair also features several unique events that show off this region’s special flair. The Hay Bale Decorating Contest is an annual favorite, with whimsical entries going all out to decorate their hay bales as jalopies, covered wagons or famous local buildings. The dirt will fly at the track for mud bogging and dirt bike races, and amateur chefs are already cooking up something special for the Favorite Chocolate Cake Contest and Favorite Fruit Crisp Contest.
Several other Lake County Fair contests will attract the skills of ordinary folks who do extraordinary things. There are contests in baked goods, preserved foods, fine arts and home arts. Lake County’s famous quilt culture will be part of the clothing and textiles competitions, and the region’s celebrated flowers are part of the agriculture and flowers and plants category.
The finest foals, fillies and those who ride them will compete in the horse and gymkhana competitions, and you’d better believe that Lake County kids have been studiously preparing all summer for their shot in the junior livestock and showmanship categories.
Discounted pre-sale tickets to the Lake County Fair are just $8 for adults and $3 for kids, or $25 for an adult four-day season pass that’s good for the whole fair (kids’ season passes are $10). Those prices will indeed go up once the fair begins. You can buy pre-sale tickets at the Lake County Fairgrounds office or a number of other pre-sale ticket purchasing locations.
We can’t help but grandstand over what a great time there is to be had at the 2016 Lake County Fair. Be a party animal with all the other animals at the fair, and enjoy the fruits of Lake County farmers’ labors. You’ll want to stay a few days and make a whole weekend of it, and you’ll see that the charms of Lake County are more than fair.