'Let the Funshine In' at the Marin County Fair

"Let the Funshine In" is the theme to this years 76th Marin County Fair and no one knows the in's and out's better then director, Gabriella Calicchio. I sat down with Gabriella to find out more about this years Marin County Fair, running from June 30 - July 4 at the Marin Civic Center in San Rafael. 

This is your 3rd year with the fair. What has been the most exciting thing to you about this years Fair? 

I’m really looking forward to this year’s Fair as we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Summer of Love. This year’s theme has allowed us to create an energy and enthusiasm with a number of other organizations who are all celebrating this moment in history. The summer of love had such an impact on the Bay Area with innovative thinking, creative spirit and the way we understand each other as fellow humans on this crazy journey called life. 

For anyone who hasn't been to the Marin County Fair what is the one thing they cannot miss?

Definitely the Fine Art Show in the Redwood Foyer Gallery. I’m always awed and inspired by the incredible creativity and artistic talent we have here in Marin County. I’d even argue the quality of this work rivals that of any museum collection around. It’s truly amazing!

This year’s theme 'Let the Funshine In' celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Summer of Love. It was a time all about stepping out of the mainstream and challenge everything from clothes, hairstyles, music, art, and a political uprising which resonates with a lot of people today. In what ways is Marin County Fair paying homage to this celebration?

In 1967, the Summer of Love kicked-off with a two-day concert on Mt. Tamalpais called the Fantasy Fair and Magic Mountain Music Festival. Nearly 100,000 young people converged on the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood, turning the Bay Area into the epicenter of a cultural phenomenon known as the Summer of Love. During this transformative time, music, fashion, art and new ideas flourished and there was a feeling that everything and anything was possible.

Marin County is, and continues to be, a nexus of creativity and innovation. Our Fair draws together, celebrates and inspires creativity and imagination across the county, regardless of socioeconomic and cultural differences. This year to celebrate the Summer of Love we’ll feature events such as tie-dye and macramé competitions, zen gardens, pop and abstract art competitions, Flower Power horticulture, a daily 60s fashion parade and more. We’re also featuring a special exhibition showcasing photographs and objects from that historic Fantasy Fair and Magic Music Festival. We’re bringing back our virtual reality experience where you’ll be able to take a “trip” to exotic lands and psychedelic spaces.

And some of the bands we’re featuring played during the Summer of Love including The 5th Dimension, Sons of Champlin, It’s a Beautiful Day and more. This year’s Fair is one not to miss!

What do you have available for families with young children? 

It’s very important to me that the Marin County Fair is truly for everyone—young, old and everyone in between. For families and young children, we have the Baby Sanctuary where parents can take a break. The Baby Sanctuary is a cool, comfy, private place to care for your little one with comfortable chairs for breastfeeding, changing area with diapers and wipes, and water and healthy snacks for moms who need a break!

We also have six water stations throughout the fairgrounds so be sure to bring your reusable water bottle, fill up regularly and stay hydrated! We have several carnival rides that cater to young children including the Looney Tooter Train, the Jump Around and the Kid Swing. And what’s really fun for small children is the ride around the fairgrounds on the Rawhide Express Train!

Some of the hallmarks of a county fair are the competitions. What are the most uniquely Marin competitions and how do I enter?

The Marin County Fair is award-winning for its innovative, creative, and inspired competitive exhibits program organized by our Fair Manager Charlie Barboni. Many families come to our Fair to see their friends and neighbors’ creativity and talents and see the latest innovative exhibits. Our programs range from international short films to fine arts to chickens, tamales and quilts, just to name a few. The Fair is known for offering traditional and innovative competitive student exhibit categories. The juried Fine Arts, Crafts and Photography Show is considered by many to be the best among the 78 fairs in California. The International Short Film & Video Festival is the only one of its kind in North America at a county fair. 

Special themed contests this year include tie dye, Play-Doh, flashback to the ‘60s, macrame, kaleidoscope arts, tangle art, spin art, Flower Power floral arts, zen gardens, and a Let the Funshine In! themed contest.

For information on the competitive exhibits, participation and entry forms, go the “enter the fair”. The 285-page exhibitors’ guide answers questions about categories and participation.

I remember as a kid going to my local county fair. Just the anticipation of watching the rides and booths going up and the lights at night got me so excited. What makes this Fair a great family event and how is it different from your typical county fair?

Our Fair has been going on for over 75 years and continues to be the beloved event of the year. It’s the largest event in Marin County and we’re so proud of our history. With one gate admission it’s a great way to spend the day with your family and enjoy the 28 free carnival rides, free concerts, and fireworks every night. I’m also proud to say that our Fair is the greenest and healthiest fair on earth. With a solar carousel and solar stage, 94% waste diversion, and an extensive recycling and composting program, we are proud of our successes. We also are smoke free and all our food vendors offer a healthy food item so you don’t have to have a “cheat” day on your diet to attend the Fair! And I can guarantee you that everyone will get their 10,000 steps in just walking around the fairgrounds.

How much are tickets and are there ways to save on ticket price?

Tickets are discounted if you buy online now through June 2nd. After June 2nd, adult tickets are still discounted online and buying online allows you to skip the long lines at the Gate. 

Buy online: 
Through June 2nd (no service fees)
$12 Adults 13–64
$10 Children 4–12
$10 Seniors 65+

Online after June 2nd:
$15 Adults 13–64
+$3 service fee
$12 Children 4–12 +$3 service fee
$12 Seniors 65+ +$3 service fee

At the Gate:
$20 Adults 13–64
$15 Children 4–12
$15 Seniors 65+

I understand there is a fundraiser the day before the Fair opens with SchoolsRule. Can you tell me about that and about why you are doing this for SchoolsRule?

SchoolsRule-Marin is the first countywide organization to collaborate with every district in Marin County to improve education for every student. The Marin County Fair is so proud to support SchoolsRule by hosting their annual fundraising dinner in the Island Pavilion on the fairgrounds two nights before the Fair. We are able to offer the beautiful location and facilities that are already set up for our concerts. Last year, the Marin County Fair worked with a team of local leaders to organize the Step Right Up! Gala, which exclusively featured Marin County Students as the entertainment. In addition to raising $607,000 in net profit, the event also raised a great deal of awareness for SchoolsRule-Marin, who is proud to continue their partnership with the Marin County Fair this year. It’s a great way for the Fair to help our community, support our kids, and give back to an organization that is so well deserving!