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A storm forecast for Saturday, which began with light rain Friday evening, threatens to put a dreary cap on a summer more memorable for cool, overcast days on the North Coast rather than sunny beach weather.

Although the official equinox is 1:44 p.m. Sunday, signs on Friday revealed that fall has already descended upon Sonoma County.

A Pacific Northwest cold front moving across the North Coast was expected to bring up to a half-inch of rain and low temperatures into the 40s, said Bob Benjamin, forecaster with the National Weather Service.

"Probably the first cold front of the season will be draping Sonoma County," he said. "There will be a noticeable cool down. It's going to feel like fall."

Temperatures are expected to climb back into the 80s as the system passes Sunday, he said, bringing a pleasant start to fall.

"It was a fairly mild summer," Benjamin said. "We never had any periods of extremely hot weather."

Temperatures in Santa Rosa this summer averaged 80 degrees, below the 84 degree average, according to AccuWeather, a forecasting service.

With the grape harvest in high gear and Redwood Empire football teams in final tune up games before league play, Sonoma County residents readied for fall Friday afternoon.

Jim Groverman, owner of Petaluma Pumpkin Patch and Amazing Corn Maze, laid a tarp over a pyramid of hay bales in preparation for next week's opening day.

The popular fall attraction in its 20th year regularly slows traffic along Highway 101 as drivers gawk at the towering corn stalks.

Walking through the 10-foot high plants, Groverman said that fall is his busiest time of year. He recently shipped 18,000 pounds of pumpkins to sellers around the Bay Area.

"It's rewarding putting all summer into a crop and then harvesting what you've grown," he said. "It's busy but rewarding."

At the Spirit Halloween store on Santa Rosa Avenue, Gustavo Garcia, 19, and his girlfriend, Amy Alvarado, 18, both Santa Rosa Junior College students, got an early jump on Halloween shopping as they tried on Superman and Superwoman costumes.

Perusing the creepy masks and superhero costumes in the seasonal store that has been open since the end of August is part of an annual fall ritual, Garcia said.

"It feels like summer is now over," he said. "Halloween is coming up and I want to get one of the good costumes before they are all gone."

North Bay spiritual groups were preparing their own rituals to mark the changing of the seasons, traditionally a celebratory time in many cultures.

A group called Peace21 was holding its Fall Equinox Music Ritual Gathering Friday night at the Center for Sacred Studies in Guerneville, center manager Valerie Hausmann said. The cross-cultural spiritual practice included visionary teachings, sound healing and meditation, she said.

"The equinox is a time to celebrate," she said. "This is the harvest season, the time to celebrate our hard work."

Another rite of fall, the Sonoma County Harvest Fair, was preparing for its Oct. 4 to 6 run with food and wine competition judging this week and next week, said deputy manager Katie Fonsen Young.

"It's sort of the beginning of the fall season," she said.

This year's fair will feature free admission and will include pavilions to taste food, wine and beer along with the popular grape stomp competition, she said.

Despite the expected drizzle, many Sonoma County residents sought to squeeze one last camping trip out of the summer. State and regional parks reported full campgrounds for the weekend. But with predictably pleasant weather through much of the fall, Sonoma County Regional Parks were preparing for a busy season, said program manager Meda Freeman.

"Saturday is the official end of summer, but not the end of park season," she said. "We're blessed with moderate weather here. Fall is when some of our parks are just fantastic."

(You can reach Staff Writer Matt Brown at 521-5206 or matt.brown@pressdemocrat.com.)