Innovations in Community Engagement

The fairgrounds is a 55-acre, City-owned property that has touched the lives of many Petalumans and is located at the heart of our city. City residents pay for the fairground property with their local tax dollars.

For the last 50 years, the state has leased this property from the City for only one dollar each year, while retaining full control of all events that take place there. This year, the 50-year lease will expire, and the City will take back control of the property from the state.

The fairgrounds property has hosted the annual Sonoma-Marin Fair for over 80 years—and that will continue. 

On Dec. 18, 2023, our City Council approved a lease agreement with the 4th DAA that continues their tenure operating our annual fair while also allowing our community to enjoy the fairgrounds property year-round under local taxpayer control

This action marks the culmination of City’s commitment made last October 24, 2022, when the City Council directed staff to negotiate an agreement with the DAA to ensure the continuation of the annual fair with minimal disruption.

On January 1, 2024, the City will assume management of the fairgrounds property and has executed agreements with each of the existing tenants for this period of transition, allowing minimal disruptions as we plan to ensure year-round public use of this taxpayer-owned property.


Our community has been – and will be – involved in planning the future of our Fairgrounds property every step of the way.

In 2022, to help us gather feedback and engage our community, we hired Healthy Democracy, a US-based nonpartisan nonprofit, to conduct a one-of-a-kind experience in democracy – a lottery-selected resident panel. This Fairgrounds Advisory Panel included 36 Petalumans from all different walks of life. They spent over 90 hours learning about the fair, the fairgrounds, and hearing from our community about their needs and desires for the property—and then developed recommendations to the City Council about how the City might plan for the future of this iconic, beloved property.

This new approach, integrated with our established community engagement tools, brought new voices to the table for this important conversation. The Fairgrounds Advisory Panel was chosen to represent a microcosm of the City, and participants were paid for their time to make participation more accessible for historically underrepresented Petalumans.  

We are excited to continue to pursue new ways to make sure all Petalumans have a say in their local government, both on the Fairgrounds and throughout our City. Check out the videos on the right to more about the Fairgrounds Advisory Panel or visit the Healthy Democracy page HERE.

Guiding Principles

On October 24, 2022, following the input from our community, your City Council adopted guiding principles directly from your feedback to ensure our community’s needs and desires for its property are reflected in any activity, improvement, or planning effort that occurs. (Click HERE to view the full meeting.)

The 8 guiding principles that will guide all future efforts on the city-owned property are as follows:

  • Acknowledge and build upon community input regarding the fairgrounds property while continuing to engage with the community going forward.
  • Create, maintain, and enhance authentic partnerships across stakeholders and community groups with an interest in the fairgrounds property.
  • Provide civic and institutional stability during the transition period and beyond so that the fair event and other key uses continue.
  • Affirm a renewed, generational commitment of the City to the Petaluma community's agricultural past and present for which the fairgrounds property continues to be a focal point, to the people who have utilized and want to utilize the fairgrounds property, and to the fairgrounds property itself and its unique challenges and potential as an asset for the whole community through near-, medium-, and long-term actions and milestones for the property and related programs.
  • Preserve and enhance key elements, resources, and activities at the fairgrounds property that the community is connected to and that make the place unique.
  • Honor the legacy of history, place, and community while fostering safety, health, inclusivity, cultural connectedness, accessibility, and useability of the fairgrounds property for the benefit of all.
  • Preserve and enhance the capacity of the fairgrounds property to provide critical emergency response resources for Petaluma and the region.
  • While preserving the essential and unique feel and presence of the fairgrounds property and its core features, ensure that future fairgrounds property uses, including fair event uses, are maximized to effectively and compatibly accomplish as many of the community's needs and wants for the fairgrounds property as possible.

We look forward to working with you to uphold these Guiding Principles and increasing access to the Fairgrounds for the community.

What's Next?

As of Spring 2024, our community now has year-round access to the Fairgrounds Property. We hope you will help us rank the community's Top 4 Priorities as we determine our next steps by filling out the form HERE.

And don't forget to sign up above right to stay up-to-date on events, programming, and the future master planning process!

Welcome Back to Your Fairgrounds

Petaluma’s Innovative Fairgrounds Panel

Digital Storytelling Exhibit

A digital exhibit featuring community drawings, poems, photos, videos, voice notes, and more – sharing stories and other memories that speak to the spirit and legacy of the Fairgrounds. Click here to learn more. 

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