2016 Award Winners
Every year the Sonoma County Fair and the Western Fair Association are proud to recognize those individuals within our community that make an impact. The recipients have shown support to the Fair and local communities through their knowledge, phlianthropy and accomplishments.
The Western Fair Association's Blue Ribbon Award
The Western Fair Association's Blue Ribbon Award recognizes those individuals or groups who have provided outstanding support to the Fair industry. Honorees are often volunteers, sponsors or educators.
Don & Anita Jesser
Don and Anita Jesser have been rodeo fans for nearly 30 years. This husband and wife team is the “total package,” covering everything from sound production to entertainment. Don Jesser, one of the few horseback announcers, draws his extensive experience from 17 years as a saddle bronc rider, bareback rider, and team roper. He went on to become a pick-up man, helping riders dismount their bucking horses. In 1992, Don Jesser officially retired from competing to pursue a full-time career announcing for the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA).
And as they say, behind every great man is a great woman. Anita Jesser not only produces all the sound, but she keeps her husband up to speed during timed events such as calf roping and barrel racing.
For more than two decades, this nationally-acclaimed award-winning couple has made Sonoma County Fair’s PRCA Rodeo a huge success. The Jessers’ witty insights and clever repartee continue to connect the crowd to the cowboys and cowgirls, bringing home the Wild West and entertaining fairgoers of all ages. And, in addition to being one of the most in-demand rodeo announcing teams, the Jessers both participate in the Sonoma County Fair’s Farmer’s Day, making this hometown favorite both memorable and fun.
Assemblymember Marc Levine
Marc Levine was an invaluable ally when the California Horse Racing Board announced their intentions to change the schedule for Santa Rosa’s horse racing dates. Levine understood the economic impact this change could have to the overall financial health of the Sonoma County Fair, and urged the Board to weigh the consequences of their proposal with the best interest of the community at large.
Although we were unable to stop our horse racing dates from changing for the 2015 meet,Levine’s teams continued to push for more legislative participation and oversight of the California Horse Racing Board to provide protection to racing fairs, such as ours, from these kinds of decisions. Their commitment to the overall success and health of our county fairs will always be remembered and cherished in the years to come.
Assemblymember Wesley Chesbro
Wesley Chesbro has dedicated his life to public service, advocating for the protection and restoration of natural resources, accessible and timely health care, and public education. During his final years as an Assemblymember, Chesbro aligned himself with the Sonoma County Fair and Humboldt County Fair, as we joined forces to oppose detrimental changes in horse racing dates proposed by the California Horse Racing Board in 2013.
Although we were unable to stop our horse racing dates from changing for the 2015 meet, Chesbro and Levine’s teams continued to push for more legislative participation and oversight of the California Horse Racing Board to provide protection to racing fairs, such as ours, from these kinds of decisions. Their commitment to the overall success and health of our county fairs will always be remembered and cherished in the years to come.
From wildly encouraging the crowd to bid at the Fair’s popular Junior Livestock auction to quietly traveling many miles each month to provide essential leadership on the Sonoma County Fair Board, Dave Lewers stands out as a tried and true supporter of Sonoma County agriculture. In recognition of his decades of service, the Board of Directors and staff of the Sonoma County Fair are thrilled to dedicate this year’s 2016 Exhibitor Guidebook to Healdsburg’s Dave Lewers.
Any question about Lewers’ dedication to agriculture and to the Sonoma County Fair can be answered by the mileage on his truck. For over 18 years, “Big Dave” made the 92 mile roundtrip from his home in Healdsburg to the fairgrounds in Santa Rosa where he served as a member, chairman and president of the Sonoma County Fair Board; worked the ring at the Junior Livestock Auction; and attended more fair-related events than anyone, including Lewers, could ever count.
Hall of Flowers Dedication
For more than 20 years, Duncan has been the creative mastermind behind the floral show, and this year the Sonoma County Fair is pleased to dedicate the 2016 Hall of Flowers to the exhibit’s creative director and designer, as well one of the Fair’s most talented contributors.
For nearly 30 years, Duncan has been a valuable member of the Fair family, transforming a cavernous 27,000 square foot building into the magical and alluring Hall of Flowers. Now in his 22nd year as creative director, Duncan’s experience and leadership have made the Sonoma County Fair’s Hall of Flowers the largest themed floral show on the West Coast. For more than four months each year Duncan orchestrates a team of talented designers, builders, and landscapers to bring the flower show’s theme to life.
Because of Duncan’s creative pursuit of authenticity and depth the Hall of Flowers has been awarded several accolades, including recognition from the Western Fairs Association. Duncan is also the owner of Duncan Design Inc., a Santa Rosa company specializing in design and fabrication of themed environments for amusement parks and specialty museums. Duncan’s work has included shows at Discovery Kingdom in Vallejo, The Haunted Castle at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk and a wax museum in Hawaii. He even received an Emmy for his work on PBS’ “Dr. Science’s National Science Test.”
Outstanding North Bay Rancher
The Sonoma County Fair Board and members of the local ranching industry have selected Mike Mickelson of Petaluma as the 2016 Outstanding North Bay Rancher and the recipient of the J.W. Jamison Perpetual Trophy. Petaluma’s Mickelson is in the business of breeding and raising show lambs, but at heart he’s in the business of cultivating responsible young adults. Through his Mickelson Club Lambs, he provides project lambs and breeding stock for 4-H and FFA members to show at fairs from Humboldt County to San Diego. Each year, these lambs touch dozens of young lives, sharing the rich lessons of farming and furthering Sonoma County’s agricultural tradition for the next generation.
Outstanding Dairy of the Year
Richard & Marilyn Hughes
A couple of city kids made good on the farm. That’s the story of Richard and Marilyn Hughes, owners of Westview Jerseys and winners of the 2016 Sonoma County Fair’s Outstanding Dairy of the Year Award. Unlike most North Bay dairy farmers, Richard and Marilyn grew up south of San Francisco. The closest either of them came to milking a cow was a trip to the dairy aisle at the grocery store. But at 15, Richard took a summer trip to his aunt and uncle’s farm in Nebraska. Two years later, Richard left home to study Animal Husbandry, first at Modesto Junior College and then at Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo. By this time, his parents had also caught the bug and moved to Petaluma to start their own dairy farm. This is when Marilyn, who was a close friend of Richard's younger sister, got her first glimpse of the farming life that would be her future.
Now located in Bodega, Westview Jerseys has 220 cows on 182 acres. The milk is noted for its richness in protein, butterfat, milk solids and minerals. This attracted Straus Family Creamery to the dairy and in 2005 Richard and Marilyn converted to organic and joined Straus as a supplier. Selected for ranch appearance, herd management and leadership in the dairy industry and community, the Sonoma County Fair is proud to honor Westview Jerseys and Richard and Marilyn Hughes with 2016 Dairy of the Year Award for the North Bay region.
Award of Excellence in the Horse Industry
Citing more than 50 years of contribution that changed the face of the local horse industry, the Sonoma County Fair is pleased to present the 2016 Award of Excellence in the Horse Industry to Geyserville’s Ed Vanoni. The Fair celebrated the honor during its annual Awards Ceremony held Wednesday May 25th at the Fairgrounds. Vanoni received the award and trophy, designed by Keith Christie and donated by the Sonoma County Trail Blazers. He will also be recognized on Farmer’s Day, Sunday, July 24th in Chris Beck Arena.
An excellent horseman; Vanoni regularly trained 6 to 8 horses a day for much of his life, he taught horse husbandry at Santa Rosa Junior College, earned a first place Cutting Horse buckle from the Sonoma County Fair, was inducted into the Sonoma County Horse Council’s Hall of Fame, and named Sonoma-Marin Cattleman of the Year in 2007. And now, at the age of 86, Vanoni can still be found on the back of a horse.