Blockbuster event, set for June 30-July 4, is loaded with carnival rides, more than 12,000 exhibits, a performance by the Chinese Circus of Beijing, a Stars & Stripes photo exhibit from Mill Valley photographer Philip Shaw, a set from local fave Matt Jaffe and nightly fireworks.
With the theme of “75 Years – What a Ride!,” the 2016 Marin County Fair – set for June 30–July 4 at the Marin Center Fairgrounds in San Rafael – celebrates more seven decades of history, nostalgia, art and fun, as the first Marin County Fair and Harvest Festival was held in 1925 in Novato.  

The theme What A Ride! refers to the 75-year history, nostalgia, carnival rides, and other fair-going experiences. It also refers to the Hunter S. Thompson quote, “Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming ‘Wow! What a Ride!’”

“Fast-paced, forward-thinking and always on the fast track of cultural developments, we strive to offer first-caliber everything from the arts, technology, facilities, learning, exhibits and unique programs found nowhere else in the nation,” said Gabriella C. Calicchio, the Director of the Department of Cultural and Visitor Services. “The Marin County Fair combines classic fair exhibits with innovative new ideas. Add to that, one-of-a-kind events, cuisines both local and global, welcoming staff, cultural diversity and a rich history and legacy. This is the reputation and brand that the Marin County Fair has built over the past 75 years and I look forward to carrying that tradition forward to next 75 years.”


Photo courtesy Marin County Fair.

​Fair organizers say this year’s Fair will reflect back on those years of the beloved summer event while looking forward as a leader in the Fair industry celebrating art, agriculture and community. Here are some highlights:

  • The amazing Chinese Circus of Beijing perform at 1 p.m., 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. daily in the 800-seat Marin Veterans’ Memorial Auditorium.
  • 28 Free Carnival Rides featuring 10-story Giant Ferris Wheel and Solar Carousel from Butler Amusements.
  • Fireworks over the lagoon nightly at 9:30 p.m.
  • Attractions for the entire family: Something Ridiculous comedy juggling duo, Street Drum Corps, Balloonacy, Golden Gate Garrison – 501st Legion, Jeremy the Juggler and Rawhide Express Train.
  • Special 75th Fair Exhibit – the exhibit organized by Fair Manager Charlie Barboni and Laurie Thompson, Librarian in the Anne T. Kent California Room of the Marin County Free Library will feature historic photographs, press coverage, anecdotes and more dating back to the very first Marin County Fair and Harvest Festival in 1925.
  • Special exhibit titled Stars & Stripes featuring 30 color photographs by artist Phil Shaw recognizes the powerful iconic value of the American Flag. Shaw records the many different ways he has seen the flag, or simulations of the flag, displayed over many years.
  • More than 12,000 Exhibits including Fine Arts and Crafts, Art Chairs, Cartoons, Photography, Bonsai, Home Arts, Baked Goods, Junior Arts, Gardens and Flowers.
  • Animals!  Barnyard farm animals, Great American Pig Races & Petting Zoo, Fur & Feathers Tent, Vaulting, Junior Dairy Cattle Show, Sheep Dog Trials, Junior Dairy Goats and Classic Beef Show, Market Swine Show and Pygmy Goats.
  • Three Twins Solar Stage features popular contests: Hip Hop and Break Dance, Dancing Stars, Singing Stars and “Star Search” Performing Arts Competitions.
  • Headliner Concerts: Renowned for presenting world-class music, the Marin County Fair once again announces a stellar lineup of bands every night of the fair June 30–July 4, all of them free with the price of admission. 

Thursday, June 30, 7:30 p.m. – The Wallflowers
Fronted by co-founder Jakob Dylan, the Los Angeles-based alternative rock band has taken home several Grammys, released six studio albums and sold more than seven million records worldwide. The Wallflowers perform new hits and classic favorites such as One Headlight6th Avenue HeartacheThe Difference and more! 
Friday, July 1, 7:30 p.m. – Kool & the Gang
Kool & the Gang has sold over 70 million albums worldwide with their bulletproof funk and jazzy arrangements and have influenced the music of three generations. Thanks to songs like CelebrationCherishJungle BoogieSummer Madness and Open Sesame, they’ve earned two Grammy Awards, seven American Music Awards, 25 Top Ten R&B hits, nine Top Ten Pop hits and 31 gold and platinum albums.
Saturday, July 2, 7:30 p.m. – Sheila E.
Grammy-nominated singer, drummer, and percussionist Sheila E daughter of legendary percussionist Pete Escovedo and goddaughter of Tito Puente, At the age of  21 Sheila E met Prince at one of her concerts, and, after working with him during the recording of his 1984 album, Purple Rain—on which she recorded vocals for the song “Erotic City” (the B-side to the single “Let’s Go Crazy”)—she joined the former’s backing band as Prince’s drummer and eventual bandleader before leaving the group in 1989. Her solo career spawned such hits as Hold MeA Love Bizarre and The Glamorous Life.
Sunday, July 3, 7:30 p.m. – Plain White T’s
Plain White T’s kicked off their career in the Chicago suburbs playing a mix of pop, punk, and melody-driven rock & roll in basements and clubs across the metro area. Years later and a string of platinum—selling singles, including the mega-hit Hey There Delilah (the 18th most downloaded song of all time), under their belts — the guys haven’t stopped heading back to the basement to dream up new sounds. There’s where the Plain White T’s put the finishing touches on American Nights, the band’s first independent album since 2001. 
Monday, July 4, 7:30 p.m. – Foreigner
With ten multi-platinum albums and sixteen Top 30 hits, Foreigner is universally hailed as one of the most popular rock acts in the world with a formidable musical arsenal that continues to propel sold-out tours and album sales, now exceeding 75 million. Responsible for some of rock and roll’s most enduring anthems including Juke Box HeroFeels Like The First TimeUrgentHead GamesHot BloodedCold As IceDirty White BoyWaiting For A Girl Like You, and the worldwide #1 hit, I Want To Know What Love Is, Foreigner continues to rock the charts more than thirty years into the game.

The live music lineup also includes Mill Valley’s own Matt Jaffe, the local prodigy who continues to grow as a musician and has built a burgeoning audience in the North Bay and beyond. Now 21 years old, Jaffe connected with fellow Mill Valley resident Jerry Harrison, keyboardist of Talking Heads fame, when he was a teenager performing solo at a local open mic. The two worked together to produce his first set of studio recordings, which were inspired by the pop, punk, and rockabilly mixtures of groups such as The Clash, X and Elvis Costello.

The 411: Fair admission (concerts included): Ages 13–64: $20 at gate, $15 in advance online; Seniors 65+: $15 at gate, $12 in advance online; Children 4–12: $15 at gate, $12 in advance online; Children under 4: FREE. Gold Circle concert admission is $50 per person and includes reserved seating in a special section and fair admission. To order online visit or call the box office at 415.473.6800.

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