Get out your blue jeans and your gingham, your blackberry jam and your appetite for fun.
It's fair season in the North Bay, where an off-beat blend of corndogs and classical music, gunny-sack races and solar-powered carousels will spin you back to the future faster than you can say Ferris wheel.
From San Rafael and Petaluma to Santa Rosa and Calistoga, this summer's fairs offer an interesting blend of simple pleasures and modern technology. And, like the World Wide Web, they pride themselves on their interactive spirit.
"What's really happening is a 21st century fair, because people want to do things now, like .<TH>.<TH>. make-your-own wine and cheese," said Vicki DeArmon, marketing director for the Sonoma-Marin Fair, running through Sunday. "Then there's the traditional fair component, with the ag and the canned goods."
With the economy still in the doldrums, local fairs provide families with an affordable staycation, offering a little bit of fun for everyone, from urban-farm teens to quilting queens.
Fairs have a chance to capture the mood of simplicity and returning to our roots," said Jim Farley of the Marin County Fair, opening July 1 in San Rafael. "They are perfectly positioned to respond to the backyard poultry and canning that are happening in suburban and urban communities."
Each fair is a world unto itself, with literally hundreds of activities to choose from. Here's some of the new stuff at each one; you'll have to explore the rest of the bounty on your own.
Sonoma-Marin Fair, now through Sunday, Sonoma-Marin Fairgrounds, 175 Fairgrounds Drive, Petaluma. sonoma-marinfair.org.
This year, the fair has created a strong marriage between local food, chefs and wine.
At the Farm-to-Table Showcase, you can taste cheese, butter, bread, olive oil, jam and honey while interacting with local ranchers and producers.
Right next door, you can check out the chef's demonstrations, where well-known toques such as John Ash will put on demos with the help of assistants selected from the crowd.
"It truly is farm-to-table," DeArmon said. "The chefs are using local foods, and the producers are right next door."
With the winners of the fair's North of the Gate Wine Competition being poured in the Wine Garden — including the Best of Show, Husch Vineyard's 2009 Chenin Blanc — it's a well-rounded celebration of the table.
Don't miss: At 6 o'clock tonight and Saturday, learn what wine goes with corn dogs and funnel cakes during talks by wine judge Debra Del Fiorentino and Giovanni Balistreri of Russian River Vineyards. Then check out Joan Jett and the Blackhearts at 8 tonight.
Marin County Fair, July 1 to 5, Marin Center, 10 Avenue of the Flags, San Rafael. marinfair.org.
The Marin County Fair has been honored as the most innovative county fair and the greenest county fair on earth, so don't expect to find a bunch of tacky side shows touting large pigs and cows.
Instead, kids can ride the first-ever solar-powered carousel while mom watches global street food made by cutting-edge chefs like Bay Laurel Culinary's Chris Greenwald, who will chop up a Peruvian Ceviche with a Sweet Corn Salad and Grilled Bread.
The chef's demonstrations, run by Rachelle Boucher, are done on state-of-the-art appliances from Standards of Excellence, including convection ovens and other fun toys.