Opening: Marin County Fair

Be on the midway for an old-fashioned Fourth of July.

THE LOVELY LONGING: We're not saying that we human beings contain some physical node or vein or freckle or toe that starts to tingle when the words "Fourth of July" and "county fair" are said together, but science may discover, one day, that this is so. For our country's birthday is filled to the brim with nostalgic touches, from the songs we sing year after year to the cold treats and sparklers and barbecues that have stuck around for decades, mostly unchanged, because we like 'em that way. Put, at the top of this list, a classic county fair, one full of lights and whirling rides and treats on sticks and pettable animals. Thank the movies or folks songs or family stories or just your own imagination, but we've wrapped up the quintessential, not-too-big(-but-just-right) county fair with Independence Day. But only a few county fairs in the Golden State actually coincide with July 4, and one opened on the first day of the month: the Marin County Fair. We call it "not too big," with lots of affection, because it lasts for five days, when some county fairs push for a month. But those five days are packed to the glittery gills with exhibits -- 12,000 of 'em, from bonsai, quilts, jams, and more -- to concerts featuring legends like Aaron Neville and Judy Collins. And, yes, yes, and yesss: Fourth of July is one of the five days, so don your patriotic hues and make for...

SAN RAFAEL: Maybe, when you're close enough, you'll spy the rides of the midway (there are 28 in all) or hear some midway-esque calliope music. You may also hear the music from the mainstage, or inventions being invented at The STEAM Carnival (where science and tech rule), or all of the beasties that make a cameo (pig races, sheep dog trials, and barnyard cuties are on the grounds). The Short Film and Video Festival and performances from The Peking Acrobats make it a very bustling, easy-to-do-lots five days. Plus? Marin County Fair is billed as "the greenest county fair on earth," which you'll see evidence of in the hundreds of panels and energy-efficient choices. To add the Fourth of July touch? Fireworks. Can you do it all in less than a week? For sure, revelers; just consider how infrequently a nostalgia-filled county fair and our nostalgic July holiday cross party-happy paths.

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