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Apple fest a sweet celebration in Sebastopol

  • Dohna Karabelov, middle, 6, and Ella Diltz of Vacaville, 9. right, compete in the Caramel Apple eating contest during the Gravenstein Apple Fair in Sebastopol, Saturday August 10, 2013 at Ragle Park. The boy on the left is unidentified. (Kent Porter / Press Democrat) 2013

Not one but two contenders for the fastest caramel apple eater at the Gravenstein Apple Fair on Saturday lost a tooth in their bid to take home the top prize.

Alas, only one person could be named champ, and 10-year-old Amitiel Ashley-Haran emerged bloody — and a little lighter in the tooth — but victorious.

"It had been loose for a while, and I knew it was going to come out soon," he said, clutching his blue first-place ribbon.

Gravenstein Apple Fair

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"I was really excited when they said I was the winner," he said. "I've been in it three years and I've never won."

This weekend's celebration of all things Gravenstein apple marks the 40th anniversary of the fair and a marked change from last year's much-maligned push to make the event bigger.

Gone are the jumpy houses and the sprawling acreage of vendors. Back are the tents under the oak trees at Ragle Ranch Park and the opportunity to see aging farm equipment and sample all things apple: fritters, pie, cider, sauce and juice.

"It's been just great," said Cindy Kozlowski-Hayworth, president of Kozlowski Farms, one of the few remaining growers of Gravensteins, along with Lee Walker, Dutton Ranch, and Kendra and Paul Kolling of Nana Mae's Organics. "It's been brought back to how it started."

But after a number of years of disappointing returns, the event is not yet in the black.

The two-day fair is the main fundraiser for the nonprofit group Sonoma County Farm Trails, which promotes small farms and features about 150 members. Former executive director Bruce Shimizu stepped down in August after the new, larger fair format failed to generate wanted revenues and, in fact, lost money.

New Farm Trails executive director and fair manager Carmen Snyder said the group hopes to make $50,000 in profits this weekend, noting that still will not covering existing debt.


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