A dozen employers, including Rohnert Park's Graton Resort & Casino, on Wednesday drew several hundred job seekers to a Santa Rosa employment fair for the hospitality industry.

The businesses told Sonoma County Job Link, the fair's host, that they were seeking more than 900 workers. The casino, which plans to open this year, alone was seeking to fill 600 positions -- the first of more than 1,500 workers it plans to employ.

A county official expressed satisfaction with the event and said more businesses are asking for help in finding workers.

"The number of hiring events we're doing has been skyrocketing," said Steven Czegus, the Job Links manager.

The county conducted 30 events of varying sizes in a six-month period ending in December, he said. That was roughly the number that were done in the previous 12 months.

In the first hour of the three-hour fair, more than 240 job seekers had signed in. About 275 workers attended the event last year.

Wednesday's employers included Korbel, Panda Express, Burke's Canoes, Vintner's Inn/John Ash & Co. and Sonoma Sterling Limousines.

Lisa Shatnawi of the Palms Grill in Sonoma said the company is hiring 60 workers for a second restaurant set to open this spring in Petaluma. About 40 of those positions have yet to be filled -- everything from dishwashers to general manager.

In an age where online applications are common, Shatnawi said the job fairs remain a good venue "because we have a chance to meet people face to face."

The Lodge at Sonoma Resort & Spa was seeking to fill 19 positions, including those for front desk and the food preparation and service.

"We're always looking for the most qualified," said Greg Kitchens, the lodge's human resources director.

The interaction at such events also provides job seekers with helpful feedback and advice, he said.

The line in front of the casino's greeting table rarely dwindled Wednesday. Job seekers were given a list of two dozen available positions -- from dealers to cooks and accountants -- and told they would be able to apply online next month.

Job seeker Julie Zurliene said she is making the move here from Oakland and looking for work as a bartender or restaurant server. "I just fell in love with Sonoma County," she said.

From the job fair, Zurliene planned to drop off resumes at some Healdsburg restaurants suggested by a colleague.

Lloyd Taylor had just moved from Atlanta and is living with his cousin, Jade Brown, in Guerneville. She has a part-time job in an after-school program, but both are seeking more work.

While the summer tourist season is months way, they want to find jobs soon "before they're all taken," Taylor said.You can reach Staff Writer Robert Digitale at 521-5285 or robert.digitale@pressdemocrat.com.