Marin County Fair features space-age 'Over the Moon' theme

Marin County got a pre-Fourth fireworks show, with the opening of the county fair.

Wednesday, promptly at 9:10 pm, a dramatic display lit up the sky over the lagoon at the Civic Center in San Rafael.

The 20-minute production rivaled any Independence Day show. Fireworks are a nightly feature of the five-day fair, which closes Sunday.

In addition to the usual attractions such as carnival rides and games, and traditional fair food, this year's event has a decidedly space-age flavor. 

In the main exhibit hall, moons of every shape, size, and sparkle hang from the ceiling. 

This year's theme, "Over the Moon", marks the 50-year anniversary of the moon landing. 

"We had moonscapes, we had moon pies, crescent moon design, we incorporated the special theme into all our categories this year," said Fair Manager Charlie Barboni, who notes 1500 submissions are on display. 

Moons are represented in art and photography, poetry and even cuisine. 

Fair-goers can stand in a mock space-suit for a photo, and kids are making paper rockets with batteries and LED lights. 

And if they tire of spinning on the midway rides, virtual reality goggles can provide a ride on Apollo 11.
"Think about it, will we ever go to space, will we be in a rocket to the moon?" posed John MacLeod of XR Marin Libraries, " no, so this is a way to virtually experience that ."

Outside the exhibit hall, a petting zoo provides real barnyard critters, but with augmented reality, players can send farm animals into space. 

"Once you get three into the rocket ship, you can blast off," said Lucy Fransen of Sebastopol, a tablet in hand. "This is so cool and I did not expect this at the fair!" 
Fransen's friend agreed.

"This is great, a great experience for the kids, and big kids too!" said Nichole Clark, laughing.  

Dozens of artifacts are on loan from the Space Station Museum in Novato, including many items from actual missions. 

The centerpiece is a full-scale model of the Friendship 7, the Mercury capsule astronaut John Glenn orbited in. 

"We are always asked, 'how does anyone fit in there?'," said volunteer Angie Hutchins, "but they basically wore this capsule, more than sat in it." 

The model is made of cardboard, and it's simple design and controls are always a surprise to visitors.

"This little tiny window at the top is the only window John Glenn had to look out of," said Hutchins, "and they weren't going to give him a window but he said 'I'm not going if I don't get a window.'" 

Fair hours are 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Admission is $20, reduced to $15 for those under 12 or over 65 years old, and most rides are complimentary with admission.