Woody Weingarten

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Behind-the-scenes folks enjoy Marin County Fair, too

John (right) upstages owner, Anne Garner, at Marin County Fair. John’s sister, is at left. Photo by Woody Weingarten.

Emilie Owens cheers on four porkers in Marin County Fair race. Photo by Woody Weingarten.

This year’s five-day Marin County Fair had something to please almost every Jane and Joe — adult or kid.

With a bonus for me.

Why?

Because not only did I enjoy the ever-better entertainment and art exhibits and midway, and a breeze that made July’s heat tolerable, I got to interview typically “invisible,” behind-the-scenes folks who normally don’t get their names into print.

Take, for instance, Karen Katich of Martinez.

She’s been portraying Princess Leia of  “Star Wars” for years. It’s one of her favorite things.

Why?

“Because I saw the original ‘Star Wars’ 11 times when it first came out, and more than 1,000 times since.”

She loves “kids’ eyes getting the size of saucers when they see me, fulfilling their fantasy.”

Anne Garner owns Eleven Roses Ranch in Clearlake Oaks and brought Clydesdale horses for folks to admire.

Plus a couple of 1,600 pound draft mules.

John, the male, apparently was feeling his oats, to use a phrase about 150 years older than the 74 years the fair’s been running.

He repeatedly tried using his teeth to unknot the rope that tethered him to a gate, and upstaged her by playfully nuzzling her blouse again and again.

She explained that he “enjoys chewing garden hoses, rolling in the dirt, and bullying everybody.”

However, she added, “he’s really a coward, afraid of his own shadow.”

Karen Katich portrays Princess Leia at Marin County Fair. Photo by Woody Weingarten.

She frequently runs into fairgoers she “saw a year ago,” and especially likes “seeing the little kids so excited.”“It’s fun,” she told me, “because everybody’s happy they’re here.”

Rick Creelman of Fairfax is a ukulele player, a regular at Friday night jamborees at Del Medina’s home in San Rafael.

He came to play with 50 or so UFOs, Ukulele Friends Ohana (which means family or community), though the stage held only about 30 so the rest had to perform while roaming the audience.

Marilyn Ryan puts fairgoer’s ticket in bucket. Photo by Woody Weingarten.

This is the group’s fourth fair. They participate, Creelman said, “because it’s fun, a sing-along rather than a real concert.”

It’s also, he noted, “a chance to introduce people to the ukulele and that it’s making a comeback.”

Edward Johnson is a utility worker who lives in Rohnert Park. His fair duties include “doing the trash, keeping the restrooms clean.”

A favorite memory, he revealed, was when he and an assistant supervisor were locking up and unsuccessfully began tugging at a door — from opposite sides at the same time.

Bill Hernandez of Petaluma has been with the Marin County Sheriff’s Department 24 years.

A sergeant, he’s “done one shift a year at the fair” that long. “It’s fun to get out with people who are having fun,” he declared — a contrast with other assignments (patrol, jail, gang enforcement and street crime).

He remembered folks “trying to swim across the lagoon to get to the island” when the gates were shut because the fairgrounds were full.

Christian Williams, a Santa Rosa resident, manned an ice cream giveaway booth.

He and a co-worker handed out, on average, 22 three-gallon tubs each day — one scoop at a time.

Williams was gracious to most freebie-seekers — including me — but flummoxed by a kid who skittered away before I could get her name after she asked, “How much is the free sample of ice cream?”

Emilie Owens of Medford, Oregon, emcee for the pig races, has been doing the fair four years.

She loves how noisy her audience gets.

She recalled cheerleaders forming a human pyramid to embolden their favorite porkers.

And she recollected four pigs sprinting from the trailer onto the raceway to make it an unscheduled eight-pig contest.

Another time, “some pigs got free and just ran around the fairground.”

Zach Lien’s an L.A.-based contractor for Two Bit Circus, which ran the fair’s STEAM Carnival component.

“STEAM,” he elucidated, “is an acronym standing for Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math. Our games combine those concepts. We teach kids to work together as well as individually. I personally love to watch them trying to figure something out while playing, and it’s fun to watch adults and kids playing a game simultaneously.”

What’d I, personally, think of this year’s extravaganza, which drew 78,000 people who paid admission and 27,000 more who didn’t?

I relished that there weren’t lines for indoor bathrooms or outdoor port-a-potties, that I could find places to sit on bales of hay, that I could easily spill out the dirt that invaded my shoes.

As always, there was too much to do before I tired. But my best measuring rod was that I’d planned to stay an hour and a half.

And left five hours later.

Contact Woody Weingarten at www.vitalitypress.com/ or voodee@sbcglobal.net

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