Petaluma Antique Fair
Minutes from San Francisco, rolling green hills greet you while cruising into this little farm-chic town of historical antique buildings with glorious architecture. It’s Petaluma. Once known as “The Egg Capital of the World.”
Petaluma has this cool “locals only” vibe. Settled in 1850 along the banks of what is now known as the Petaluma River, it is believed the name of the town means ‘flat back hills,’ in the language of the Miwok Indians.
In 1879, the first successful incubator for hatching eggs was invented which resulted in a new and profitable industry for this area. Hundreds of chicken farms dotted the landscape and, with the price of eggs at 30 cents per dozen, profits from the egg business poured in. By 1917 Petaluma was the undisputed world leader of the chicken and egg industry.
Hundreds of pre-quake buildings still exist in town, as Petaluma was nearly unharmed during the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, due to the stable underlying bedrock in the region. This mix of architectural style has been the setting for numerous movies and more than 100 commercial filming over the past 30 years. Most notably American Graffiti and Peggy Sue Got Married.
Even though it is no longer known as the Egg Capital of the World, today Petaluma maintains a strong agricultural base with vineyards, berry, vegetable and dairy farms, olive groves, and is host to a twice-yearly outdoor antique fair.
My sister Janis has been wanting to meet me at the Petaluma Antique Fair for years. It’s only a three hour drive from Carmel, so I rent a pickup and throw my old blue cart in the back, leaving before sunrise.
The Petaluma Antique Fair is the whole enchilada. An outdoor marketplace of nearly 200 canopied vendors set against a background of charming antique stores and cafes, all housed in historic buildings with fascinating architecture.
I spot familiar vendors from Alameda, Goat Hill Fair, and Monterey Bay Antiques & Vintage Market alongside many new faces, their spaces bulging with great offerings.
My first purchase was an industrial iron step stool, white boat oars and a steer-head skull. Of course it was. Just a few spaces from there I find vintage black paper-covered suitcases and a fabulous soft leather satchel. This vendor has beautiful paintings for only $25 each, and I regret that I got distracted and failed to snatch these up.
There is so much galvanized everything, which I adore, but I pass them up this trip, as I really want to fill my pickup with large pieces. As I pass a rack of 1930’s barkcloth, which is tugging at my arm, I pull away and instead commit to the coolest wooden glider with painted mint green iron frame. And just next door, an iron mint-green square patio table and a Victorian ceiling tile with traces of, you guessed it, “mint green paint.” Funny how my buys subconsciously gravitate around a base color. Today it’s faded mint green.
I try not to ever pass up anything, at any price, that I would regret later for not buying. However, sometimes there comes a piece that I just cannot have. This time it was this huge, heavy repurposed florist’s cart. I wanted it so bad. It wasn’t even the steep price tag, I just couldn’t fit this in my truck. So, I snapped photos of it, sighed, and moved on.
However, from that vendor, I did purchase the coolest vintage red truck door complete with it’s chrome rear view mirror. It was my favorite buy of the day.
It’s now 10am, and I would really love a Bloody Mary, but decide not to stop as now the crowds are filing in and I hate to miss out on something. Many items have “sold” signs on them, and why is it those items are pieces we totally want more. I do spot these tall wooden columns painted in their original pink paint. Great color. They are $250 for the pair. I offer $200, but the dealer is hesitant and wants to wait to see if she can get her price later.
I stroll around her space some, really wanting these pink columns, knowing I will probably have to cave and hand her what she is asking. So, I leave, shop some more down the way, and return to offer her asking price. For some reason, she doesn’t really like me, and has decided now that they are “not for sale and she will be keeping them for display.” Really.
Anyway, there’s so much cool stuff, so I move on and find old iron street signs from Los Angeles, an old Chevy tailgate and an architectural window. I now have about 1% juice left on my iphone, so use that last bit of power to call my sister, whom I have totally forgotten about. We hook up by the piano player and end up at a Mexican café for margaritas and tacos.
Petaluma Antique Fair, while incredibly pricey, offers charming restaurants, antique malls in stone bank buildings, and tons and tons of the coolest stuff ever. I’ll be going back for their Fall Show. Maybe I’ll take a bigger truck in case the florist cart is still there and perhaps even the cranky vendor with the pink columns will let them go if I smile a little wider.