A sneak peak at a couple of Solano County Fair entries...think insects!
The COVID-19 pandemic derailed fairs and festivals, but now they're back on track.
Take the 73rd annual Solano County Fair, themed "Bales of Fun." Located at 900 Fairgrounds Drive, Vallejo, it opens June Thursday through Sunday, June 16-19, and gate admission is free. Headed by president Lee Williams of Rio Vista, the board of directors includes Valerie Williams of Vacaville, better known as "Mrs. Solano County 4-H." In fact, Valerie has served tirelessly for some 25 years as the Solano County 4-H program representative. The 4-H program is part of the University of California's Agriculture and Natural Resources or UC ANR.
Our favorite part of the fair? The exhibits at McCormack Hall, particularly those that are insect-themed.
One entry, by talented photographer Matthew Agbayani, 17, of the Vaca Valley 4-H Club, Vacaville, shows a syrphid fly and a honey bee sharing a sunflower. It takes a special kind of patience to be able to capture two species on the same flower.
Many folks mistake syrphid flies, aka hover flies or hover flies, for honey bees. They're both pollinators.
Three of the easiest ways to differentiate a fly from a bee:
- A fly has one set of wings. A bee has two sets.
- A fly has short, stubby antennae. A honey bee doesn't.
- A fly has no corbicula or pollen basket. A honey bee (worker bee) does.
Among the other insect-themed displays: Rio Vista resident Richard Laswell's exquisite watercolor depicting three dragonflies that he entered in the amateur art division; and Vallejo resident Ashley Workman's colorful blue butterfly (oils and acrylics) that she entered in open art division.
Art by Iris Mayhew of American Canyon also caught our eye. She drew inspiration from a safari in Kenya. "I love animals," she said. That includes monarchs and Gulf Fritillaries. She'll be depicting them next.
Honey bees own the flower beds at the Solano County Fair, 900 Fairgrounds Drive, Vallejo.
But bees and other insects claim the exhibit halls, as well. They're depicted on everything from quilts and photos to graphic arts displayed in McCormack Hall.
Indeed, pollinators are an integral part of the exhibits at the 70th annual Solano County Fair, which opens Thursday, June 27 and continues through Sunday, June 30. The annual family-based fair aims to inform, educate and entertain.
Gloria Gonzalez, superintendent of McCormack Hall, and a community leader with the Sherwood Forest 4-H Club, Vallejo, called attention to the colorful bees framing a 9-patch maple leaf quilt showcased in the adult division. It is the work of Tina Frothy of Vallejo.
And some of the youth entries?
- Jessie Means of the Pleasants Valley 4-H Club, Vacaville, entered a close-up photo of a honey bee.
- Maya Prunty of the Pleasants Valley 4-H Club submitted a photo of a caterpillar.
- Alana Boman of the Sherwood Forest 4-H Club sketched a moth.
- Madeline Giron of Benicia drew a bee.
Butterfly guru Art Shapiro, UC Davis distinguished professor of evolution and ecology, identified it as Parthenos sylvia ssp. lilacinus from Southeast Asia. "Its English name," he said, "is the Blue Clipper."
Locally, you can see Blue Clipper specimens in the Bohart Museum of Entomology in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building on Crocker Lane, UC Davis. "We have 11 specimens of this subspecies and specimens of 4 other subspecies of Parthenos sylvia, as well as specimens of two other species in the genus," said entomologist Jeff Smith, curator of Lepidoptera at the Bohart. He describes the butterfly as "beautiful with a strong wingbeat." Smith remembers collecting one in Thailand when he was serving with the U.S. Air Force.
Gonzalez said some of the items entered in the fair are tagged for the silent auction; the highest bidder takes the entry home.
Admission to the Solano County Fair is free all four days. Parking is free the first day only. Gates are from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Thursday, and from noon to 8 p.m., Friday through Sunday. See more information on the website.
Cheers to 70 years! And cheers to the exhibitors who picked pollinators!
The two-day fair, downsized from years past, is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, June 30 and Sunday, July 1. Admission is free; parking is $5 per vehicle. (See schedule.)
At McCormack Hall, youth and adult exhibitors are displaying such projects as an insect-themed afghan, photographs of insects; a photograph of a "spider girl"; and a wall hanging of a dragonfly crafted from fan blades and furniture legs.
McCormack Hall superintendent Gloria Gonzalez, a community leader of the Sherwood Forest 4-H Club, Vallejo, marveled at a bumble bee and other patterns on a Minnesota sampler crocheted afghan, the work of Debra Holter of San Pablo.
The wall hanging of the dragonfly, the work of Tina Saravia of Suisun City, is also drawing interest. Using her imagination and recyclables, Saravia crafted it primarily with fan blades and furniture legs. It's entered in the adult recycling class,
Gary Cullen of Vallejo entered a photo that he titled "Spider Girl," of a smiling girl with a spiderish facial costume.
Ryan Anenson of the Tremont 4-H Club, Dixon, who is enrolled in a beekeeping project, submitted a close-up image of a honey bee. Maya Prunty of Sacramento 4-H submitted an image of a moth.
Those are just a few of the arthropod-related exhibits at the fair. Some of the items are available for purchase in the fair's Competitive Exhibits Program. The highest bidder in the silent auction takes home the exhibit.
That will include the honey bee image by teenage beekeeper Ryan Anenson.
And you won't want to miss it.
If you head over to the 69th annual Solano County Fair, 900 Fairgrounds Drive, Vallejo, between now and Sunday, July 31, you'll see lots of bees, butterflies, lady beetles, dragonflies, ants and other insects in McCormack Hall. They're depicted in photos and drawings, and on display boards, quilts, cakes, muffins, China plate paintings and more.
Gloria Gonzalez, superintendent of McCormack Hall, and her crew assembled the last of the displays earlier this week, just in time for the opening on Wednesday, July 27. The fair is open weekdays until 11 p.m., and on Saturday and Sunday, July 30-31, from noon to 11 p.m.
Fairs are educational, informative, and entertaining, and the Solano County Fair, launched in 1949, is no exception. This year's theme is "Play It Again, Solano!"
But, back to the insects. Most of the exhibits in McCormack, of course, do not showcase insects, but many do! And they are amazing!
Have you ever seen a honey bee on a rock? Andrew Donato of Vallejo, has. In fact, he painted a bee on a rock and entered it in the 9-10 age graphic arts category. It's a winner!
Lexi Haddon Mendes of the Vaca Valley 4-H Club, Vacaville, entered a decorated cake, "Flowers and Bees," in her age division, 9-10. She knows bees; she's a beekeeper and her father heads the club's beekeeping project.
Madeline Giron of Benicia entered muffins decorated with colorful ladybugs, aka lady beetles, in her 11-13 age division. Judges said "Yum!" and "Beautiful!" and "Blue Ribbon!"
Joseph Garrett of Fairfield entered several mounted insect specimens--along with a wolf spider (spiders are not insects)--in the science project division, ages 5-8. Is Joseph an entomologist-to-be?
The work of the adults is also incredible!
- Laquita Cumings of Rodeo entered a quilt of the most colorful butterflies you've ever seen. Best of show!
- Kim English of Fairfield entered a "Dresden design" China painting, adorned with flowers, butterflies and a bee.
- Celia Weller of American Canyon crafted a machine-quilted wall hanging adorned with flowers and an exotic butterfly not found in nature--but found at McCormack Hall.
- Beverly O'Hara of Benicia appliqued a quilt with ants and called it "Ant-titude." Clever! It features ants enjoying a picnic. What's a picnic without ants?
- Anita Jessop of Benicia imagined a field of flowers, and quilted a "Sunny Field of Flowers" wall hanging, complete with a hummingbird and dragonflies.
- Laura Ryan of Benicia entered a fan needlepoint anchored with a delightful blue butterfly. Reminds us of the blue morpho!
Those are just some of the prize-winning exhibits by youth and adults displayed at McCormack Hall. Be sure to check out the other buildings as well for an overall look at what the fair offers. The fair ends on Sunday, July 31 at 11 p.m.
Gloria Gonzalez, a longtime 4-H volunteer, has worked on the McCormack Hall displays for 11 years and has served as the superintendent for three years. She's the community leader of the Sherwood Forest 4-H Club, Vallejo, a position she's held for eight years.
The veteran 4-H adult volunteer has served as a project leader in the Sherwood Forest 4-H Club for 18 years. Many of the folks who crew McCormack Hall are also 4-H'ers, including Sharon Payne, a past president of the Solano County 4-H Leaders' Council; and longtime 4-H'ers turned leaders, Angelina Gonzalez and Julianna Payne, all of the Sherwood Forest 4-H Club.
Say the word “wings” to folks who attend fairs and festivals and they may think of something to eat--buffalo wings or chicken wings.
But if you head over to McCormack Hall at the Solano County Fair, Vallejo, you'll be thinking of insect flight.
Flight of butterflies and moths. And maybe a ladybug or two.
Butterflies grace wall hangings, quilts and t-shirts and also appear in photographs and arts and crafts projects. You'll also encounter other bugs, including a moth (photograph), and a youngster's educational display board about spiders. (For those who aren't fond of spiders, these are illustrations.)
The 65th annual fair, themed "Cruisin' the County," opened Wednesday, July 30 and ends on Sunday, Aug. 3. The theme spotlights classic and unique cars.
Gloria Gonzalez, superintendent of the McCormack Hall building, and her crew have done a marvelous job setting up and displaying the many exhibits, which range from youth photos, preserved foods, and baked goods to quilts, special collections and arts and crafts projects.
Among the special butterfly and moth attractions we spotted:
- "Butterfly Lovers," a hand-and-machine quilted wall hanging by Tina Waycie of Vallejo
- "Butterflies," a needlepoint (stamped cross-stitchery) by Marlo Wilson of Vallejo, adult division
- "Butterfly T-Shirt," a textile project by Leslie Dunham of PACE Solano, adult division
- "Flying Wing," a machine-quilted wall hanging by Suzanne Ruiter of Fairfield, adult division
- "Moth," a photo by 9-year-old Maximilian Burgess-Shannon of Benicia
Gloria Gonzalez, a longtime 4-H leader (she's the co-community leader of the Sherwood Forest 4-H Club, Vallejo) kept busy finishing up the displays last Sunday. Among those assisting were Sharon Payne, past president of the Solano County 4-H Leaders' Council and the superintendent of the youth exhibit building at the Dixon May Fair; Gloria's daughter, Angelina Gonzalez, who leads the arts and crafts project for Sherwood Forest; and their colleague Iris Mahew of American Canyon.
Angelina, who recently received her master's degree in sociology from Sacramento State, is also the Solano County representative to the Statewide 4-H SET (science, engineering and technology) Program. (By the way, she's also a great cook--her caramel cookies won best of show.)
Fairs are all about informing, educating and entertaining--not necessarily in that order. They are a place where you can browse through the exhibit halls, enjoy the carnival rides, check out the 4-H and FFA livestock and the junior livestock auction, attend a free concert, and eat a bacon-wrapped hot dog. (Actually, I think something vegetarian sounds better!)
We're especially glad to see the insect-themed exhibits in McCormack Hall. It's not just vehicles that "cruise" the county or parts of the county.
Insects do, too.