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Hall of Flowers exhibits reflect resilience in face of wildfire

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In years past, the Sonoma County Fair’s eponymous Hall of Flowers has adopted a creative litany of themes: cinema, dinosaurs, barnyard life.

This year’s exhibition was originally intended to carry a tropical theme, but in the aftermath of October’s destructive wildfires, the fair’s board of directors felt the 2018 refrain should honor and reflect the resilience of the county’s spirit in the face of disaster.

Guests at the “Seasons of Sonoma” Hall of Flowers preview party Wednesday night were greeted by a towering red phoenix, a symbol of Sonoma County’s determination and rebirth. Ten professional garden exhibits lined the hall, each designed to capture a different region of the county, from the “Bodega Bluffs” to a “Redwood Grove.”

Outside, amateur and junior gardeners designed exhibits that drew from the county’s diverse microclimates and honored the firefighters and first responders who were crucial to rescue and containment efforts in the October fires.

Matt Rogina, a Sonoma County native, has participated in the Hall of Flowers show every year since he was 9 years old and is the second generation of his family to compete in the fair’s flower show.

Now his two nieces, Haley and Janelle Rogina, are entering the juniors competition with their own garden designs. His brother, Steven Rogina, designed a professional exhibit inside the hall, the “Russian River Ramble.”

“Our family has been doing this fair for 60 years now,” Rogina said.

Danya Justus, designer of the “Bodega Bluffs” exhibit, decorated with abalone shells and a portion of her own home’s deck, wore a cobalt blue ball gown that cost $15 at a thrift store.

“You know, after we spent all this money on flowers, we can’t afford expensive clothes,” Justus said. Her brother, sister-in-law, mother and children were all up until midnight Tuesday adding the finishing touches to her exhibit.

The preview party ultimately serves as a fundraiser for the Hall of Flowers Scholarship Fund, which awards scholarships to Sonoma County students on their way to college. This year’s winners were accepted at a range of schools and universities, including Oklahoma State University and the California Polytechnic State University. All of the scholarship winners plan to major in agricultural studies.

Sonoma County Fair patrons can tour the hall during the fair, which runs from today through Aug. 19.

You can reach Meghan Herbst at 707-521-5250 or at meghan.herbst@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @Megeherbst.

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