LeBARON: Saralee Kunde and the shifts of the Harvest Fair

They say that scent is the strongest of all memory triggers. I guess that's why any mention of the Harvest Fair comes with a memory of that building full of apples — red, yellow, green, striped apples — an olfactory delight.

But the scent of apples is fading fast. The Harvest Fair now has been marked for a remodel. And while we don't know fully what that means, it's clear there will be an even greater focus on wine and food, and an elimination of the many competitive exhibits and family ag-related activities reminiscent of country fairs.

That's why I went to visit Saralee Kunde last week. She knows as much about the Harvest Fair as anyone. She's been involved in all kinds of ways since it began.

"First it fizzled, then it was a huge success," she says, summing up 37 years of Harvest Fairs.

Is it fizzling again?

You won't hear that from Saralee. She's not a bad news person. More like matter-of-fact. "The times are changing," she says. "I wish they weren't changing, but they are."

The credit for founding the Harvest Fair is easy to assign.It was "Mr. Jamison," Saralee says, still calling J.W. "Wes" Jamison by his teacher's honorific after all these years. The Santa Rosa ag teacher who was also the livestock manager for the county fair, knew that the timing of that fair didn't work for agriculture, particularly apples. The early July opening was set by the racing board and was far too early for crops.

"I think he went to Boonville, to the Mendocino County Fair and Apple Show and saw what a fall event could look like," said Saralee.

The first Harvest Fair, she recalls, "was patched together after the 1975 county fair closed in the middle of July."

The entries and farm exhibits rolled in. "All it took was a visit from Mister Jamison. Most of them had been his students. The apples, everyone remembers those apples, came from the Duttons, the Walkers, the Imwalles, Darrel Hurst at Twin Hills."

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