Even at more than 100 years old, the turn-of-the-century apple peeler and corer that once belonged to Walt Taddeucci’s grandfather proved astonishing to those who watched the Occidental man’s demonstrations Saturday at Sebastopol’s Gravenstein Apple Fair.

Hand-cranked with the kind of sturdy construction that suggests it will last forever, the device’s speed and efficiency appeared to rival the most modern-day machines.

“I needed that last week,” Santa Rosa resident Sheryl Smith said after seeing Taddeucci quickly strip the skin and punch the core from an apple as part of a large and popular display by the Early Day Engine & Tractor Association. “My elbow was hurting from peeling apples.”

“That thing’s amazing,” another bystander said.

West Sonoma County’s reign as the region’s apple capital may already have peaked, but events like the annual Gravenstein fair suggest there’s no hurry to relinquish tasty traditions made possible by the tart, juicy fruit in which the area specializes.

The fair Saturday drew an overflow crowd of folks to Ragle Ranch Park for music, arts and crafts, and all manner of apple dessert — from apple pies to apple pie ice cream, apples covered in caramel and fresh off the tree.

“People come back here just for this,” Bob Gale, secretary of the local Masonic Lodge, said while taking orders for apple fritters, bits of goodness made by hand, fresh at the fair for a persistently long line of patrons.

Gale said the lodge would sell about 7,500 servings during the fair’s two-day run if more than 30 years of sales are any predictor.

Annie Roberts of Novato, who enjoyed them enough last year to order them again on Saturday, said the fritters are just as they should be — “light and fluffy and appley.”

“They’re just like my mom used to make,” said her friend, Betsy Philipie, of Rohnert Park.

Working to perfect her own apple confection, Folsom resident Dana Hull made the trek to Sebastopol for the fair yet again this year, winning a hard-fought family competition for best entry in the fair’s apple pie baking contest this year.

Though her pies have earned awards in year’s past, Hull beat out both her husband, Milt Hull, and her brother, Greg Steindorf of Rocklin, for the Grand Champion prize this year, though both of the men placed in the top four.

Milt Hull, who earned a third-place ribbon, said he’s finally learned not to over-mix his dough and has given up on grating the apples as his mother used to do.

“I don’t think the judge like that,” he said.

The fair continues Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., at Ragle Ranch Park. Admission is $12 for age 13 and over, $10 for ages 6 to 12 and free for those 5 and under. Free shuttle buses are available from Holy Ghost Hall, 7960 Mill Station Road, and O’Reilly Media, 1005 Gravenstein Highway North.

You can reach Staff Writer Mary Callahan at 521-5249 or mary.callahan@pressdemocrat.com.