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Cloverdale's Citrus Fair got off to a sunny start Friday, a testament to the small-town atmosphere and community support that have made it one of the longest running fairs in the state.

Now in its 121st year, it's been staged through wars and even the demise of the local citrus industry that brought it into being.

"It's a beautiful weekend. Normally it's raining," said Theresa Smith, a fair board member and 35-year Cloverdale resident.

The fair seems to attract all of the town's 8,700 inhabitants. Schools in Cloverdale closed Friday as the fair kicks off its Presidents Day Weekend run.

The folksy event is known for a diaper derby, talent contest, Citrus Fair Queen Pageant, pygmy goat and poultry shows. "It's the first city activity of the year after a long winter," is how Johnnie Robbins, 78, described its relevance.

"I thoroughly enjoy it," said Connie Headrick of Cloverdale. "It's small. It's local. You see your friends."

Headrick also was drawn to the fair's Polynesian theme this year. "I love the South Pacific. I've been to Tahiti seven times," she said.

She was admiring the Hawaiian quilt patterns in the Arts and Crafts exhibit entered by Mrs. Simoneau's second-grade class at Jefferson School. One of the patterns was made by Headrick's granddaughter, Gracie Bunting, 7, who was out enjoying the carnival rides with her brothers and mother.

The small midway offers a dozen or so rides, including ones with names like "Zipper" and "Ring 'O Fire" that spin, whirl or leave riders momentarily suspended upside down. There are the tell-tale shrieks and screams of teenage thrill seekers. But there are also mellower rides like "Shrek" where kids can climb a cargo net and go down a covered slide.

New this year is a quieter area for smaller children called "Kids Town."

Kay Kerriden of Cloverdale was showing her five-year-old grandchild, Emily Wetterau, how to lasso the head of a plastic steer head. "You can do it. If grandma can do it, you can do it," Kerriden said as she twirled the lasso.

Nearby, Thomas Barker, 10, was playing checkers on a giant board with his friends. "This place is awesome," he said, adding that he liked the mini-golf and bowling game.

What would a fair be like without funnel cakes, corn dogs, cotton candy and mini-donuts? But this is also Wine Country, so wine tasting is offered today and Sunday afternoon.

First held in 1892, the creative exhibits involving oranges that are the fair's hallmark have shrunk.

This year, there are only two major exhibits. One by the Rotary Club is made up of more than 1,200 oranges and lemons. It depicts a surfer shack and a pig roast, in keeping with the Polynesian theme. Another by the Lions Club incorporates a Tiki hut, hula dancers and island chieftain.

The fair also retains traditional its animal husbandry ties, though they are limited to small-animal exhibitions such rabbits and guinea pigs, poultry, goats and a dog obedience show.

The Citrus Fair also is a qualifier for the state fair for Future Farmers of America and 4H members.

By the time it's over, the Citrus Fair is expected to draw 16,000 people, said chief executive Bonnie Wlodarczyk.

She predicted the biggest turnout likely will be today for the parade that kicks off downtown at 11 a.m. It features the popular Humboldt State Marching Lumberjacks and culminates at the fairgrounds.