San Anselmo’s Country Fair Day has been held almost continuously since 1970 and has always been an event put on by the community for the community. A large team of volunteers work each year to make the fair a huge success. It is a family event that has often featured a pancake breakfast, a walk/run race, music, and a celebrated town resident/s as grand marshal.
The first fair was held June 5-6, 1970, and was sponsored by the merchants of San Anselmo Avenue. Sales and discounts were offered and there was music and a kiddie parade. The avenue was closed to traffic from Tunstead to Tamalpais on Saturday, the 6th.
Under sponsorship of the Chamber of Commerce, Country Fair Day became a more elaborate event through the 1970s. By 1975, 140 bands, floats and marching units from Marin and Northern California participated. Marji, the elephant from Marine World, marched in the parade, and the parade route extended from Bolinas Avenue to Bridge.
In 1978, Star Wars characters marched in the parade for the first time. Darth Vader was accompanied by Boba Fett who made his first public appearance well before The Empire Strikes Back was in the theaters. It was an extremely hot day, and the actor wearing Darth Vader’s black suit required medical attention. A 4.4 mile foot race through town attracted 500 participants.
Fair sponsorship was changed from the Chamber of Commerce to a town-wide planning committee in 1981. This was also the only year that the fair was held in the spring (May 16-17). It included the Pickle Family Circus at Memorial Park as well as the downtown parade, off-road bike race, town-wide sidewalk sale and an American Legion barbeque and dance with country music at the Log Cabin.
Festivities, a picnic and entertainment, were relocated to Bouick Field on San Francisco Theological Seminary grounds in 1983 due to a storm-damaged bridge in Creek Park. The parade theme was “Making Music.”
Starting in the late 1980s, the Downtown Business Association sponsored Country Fair Day. The fair by that time had settled into a pattern of a set theme, a pancake breakfast at the fire station, music in Creek Park, food and crafts booths, and a parade with 40-50 local groups participating. The Town celebrated America, the 50s, the Roaring Twenties, Mardi Gras, San Anselmo’s history in movie-making, its railroad history and its entry into the digital age.
In 2000, coordination of the Fair was assumed by Town staff, and its name was changed to Community Fair Day. The Town was forced to cancel the fair in 2006 due the New Year’s Eve 2005 flood and a severe financial crisis, but the Chamber of Commerce, merchants and volunteers stepped in and brought back Country Fair Day with a real country theme, “Down on the Farm.”
Country Fair Day was on hiatus in 2007 and 2008. The Town celebrated its centennial in 2007 with a number of events, including a town picnic at Memorial Park, but Country Fair Day and the parade were not held. It returned in 2009 and continues to showcase our Town with a parade, pancake breakfast at the fire station, children’s activities and street booths populated with community groups, artisans and shopkeepers.