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Gravenstein Apple Fair in Sebastopol celebrates Gravenstein apple, bees

Kim Bernardi has attended the Gravenstein Apple Fair for nearly as long as she’s lived in Sebastopol. While the food is a big draw, it isn’t the only thing that brings her and her family back every year.

They love its connection to the land and its history. She said it’s a “throwback” to earlier times, when apples still reigned over the picturesque hills of west Sonoma County.

“It’s a little slice of Sebastopol life,” said Bernardi, a mother of three who moved to the area eight years ago with her winemaker husband, Neil.

Now in its 44th year, the Gravenstein Apple Fair, held this weekend at Ragle Ranch Park, is expected to draw 15,000 attendees over two days. It’s not just residents from Sonoma County, Bernardi said. They’re coming from all over the Bay Area.

“The crowds have found out about our little sweet fair,” she said.

It’s an event that got sweeter this year with its theme, “In Praise of Pollinators,” which celebrates the honey bees that pollinate Gravenstein apples and much of the food supply. Bee experts offered presentations on backyard beekeeping, planting bee-friendly gardens and weaving traditional skep beehive baskets.

While families buzzed about the beehives on display, it was clear the sweet and tart Gravenstein apple still was queen bee at the fest. Crowds gathered around the apple cider tents, while long lines formed at the apple fritters and pie booths.

“It’s huge,” Barbara Walker said about the festival’s significance in promoting the Gravenstein apple, which her family has been growing for more than a century.

“We have many new transplants to this area who are unfamiliar,” she said. “This is an opportunity to give them a taste and educate them about the Gravenstein.”

She gave Petaluma resident Kin Davis tips on how to pick out the sweetest apples from the bunch: look for ones that don’t have waxy skin. Davis, 41, also learned the green Gravensteins are best for pies, while the red ones are best to…

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