A whole circus of summertime activities (including an actual circus)

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In the beloved 1881 novel ‘Toby Tyler, or Ten Weeks With a Circus’ – which some old-timers might remember as a popular 1960 Disney movie – the orphaned boy Toby escapes from his unhappy foster home one hot summer, and runs off to join a traveling circus, where he learns a few important lessons about responsibility, family, and the meaning of hard work.

Oh, and he makes friends with a chimpanzee named Mr. Tubbs.

This summer, Petalumans need not run away to the circus for a bit of adventure and edification. The circus – in many different ways – is coming to us, from the Sonoma County Fair and the annual Broadway Under the Stars shows to new Pet-a-Llama Comedy Festival, the Petaluma Progressive Festival (featuring an appearance by the celebrated San Francisco Mime Troupe), and a couple of actual circuses, in the form of Circus Vargas, returning to PEtaluma with a new pirate-themed show, and the hard-to-describe Lagunitas Beer Circus.

Read all about them, and a lot more, in this round-up of upcoming summertime events, festivals and fun times in and around Petaluma.


Thursday, August 9, After sunset (space open at 6 p.m.)

Lucchesi Park

Movies in the Park continues with “Despicable Me 3,” the ongoing story of reformed evil mastermind Gru and his three adorable adopted daughters. Games, food trucks and other pre-show activities.

Free admission.


Daily through Sunday, Aug. 12, gates open 11 a.m.

County Fairgrounds, Santa Rosa

The theme this year is ‘A Salute to Heroes,’ from the real-life heroes who risk everything for their communities to the kind who wear capes and fight supervillains. The Hall of Flowers features the theme “Seasons of Sonoma,” with floral representations of the county’s coastal bluffs, redwoods, vineyards and more. Other attractions include appearances by the hilarious singing-and-yodeling cowboy Sourdough Slim (Hall of Flowers Stage, daily at 1:30 p.m., 3:45 p.m., and 5:30 p.m.), daily horseracing, an Elvis Presley “Thankyouverymuch” competition (Saturday, Park Stage, 2:15 p.m.), and lots more.

WANT TO KNOW MORE? SonomaCountyFair.com.


Saturday, August 18, 7 p.m.- 8 p.m.

Petaluma Adobe State Historic Park

In the courtyard of the historic Petaluma adobe, grab a skewer and toast some marshmallows, and listen to stories and songs. Free of charge. 3325 Adobe Rd.

WANT TO KNOW MORE? Visit SonomaParks.org.


Weekends through Sunday, Aug. 19, 7:30 p.m.

Jack London State Historic Park

The Transcendence Theatre Company’s summer series, Broadway Under the Stars, continues with this dance-themed show featuring performers from Broadway and beyond. Tickets range from $45 for general admission to $145 for VIP access.

WANT TO KNOW MORE? Visit transcendencetheatre.org.


Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 11 & Aug. 12, 10 a.m.- 6 p.m.

Ragle Ranch Park,


All manner of apple-related activities will collide with apple-based foods and libations for this annual celebration of the beloved Gravenstein apple. Crafts booths, games, and a ride in a little train will be part of the fun. $10 to $15.

WANT TO KNOW MORE? Visit GravensteinAppleFair.com.


Thursday, Aug. 16 – Saturday, Aug. 18

The Mystic Theatre and the Big Easy

The inaugural Pet-a-Llama Comedy Festival will unfold over three days, with simultaneous shows at the Mystic Theatre and The Big Easy. Highlights include comedian Brian Posehn (“The Big Bang Theory”), The Comedians’ Cinema Club (an L.A.- based group that reenacts popular movies on the spot), The Sklar Brothers, Buddy Cole (from Kids in the Hall), and a whole more.

WANT TO KNOW MORE? To see the full lineup and get information on each of the acts, check the website at Petallama.com.


Saturday Aug. 18 - Sunday Aug. 19, 9:30 a.m. - 8 p.m.

La Plaza Park

The 28th annual Accordion Festival features over 40 acts from across the globe. Over 70 vendors will participate in the festivities consisting of food, beer and wine. A free shuttle service will transport patrons from the local Smart station for convenience. Tickets are $17 presale, $19 at the gate, and free for kids 15 and under.

WANT TO KNOW MORE? Visit cotatifest.com.


Thursday, Aug. 23 – Monday, Aug. 27, various times

Petaluma Fairgrounds

The popular South Bay-based circus returns to Petaluma with a brand new, pirate-themed show featuring outrageous, swashbuckling acts of daring-do performed to live music. Show-times are 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, Aug. 23, 4:30 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 24, 1 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 25, and 6:30 p.m. on Sunday and Monday, Aug. 26 and 27. Tickets $15-$40. Under the big top at the Petaluma Fairgrounds, 175 Fairgrounds Drive.

WANT TO KNOW MORE? Visit CircusVargas.com.


Thursday, Aug. 23 - Sunday, Sept. 2, 7 p.m.

The Foundry Wharf

Free Shakespeare returns to the Foundry Wharf, as Petaluma Shakespeare Company presents ‘All’s Well That Ends Well,’ the Bard’s wacky psychological rom-com about a brilliant, low-born woman who goes to astonishing lengths to win the heart of nobleman who pretty much hates her. The show will be preceded by short vignettes from the movement-based performance piece “Speechless Shakespeare,” which will be performed in its entirety on Sundays, Aug. 26 and Sept. 2, at 4 p.m. All shows are free, though donations will be gratefully accepted. Food and drink available for purchase.

WANT TO KNOW MORE? Visit PetalumaShakespeare.org.


Sunday, Aug. 26, Noon – 5:30 p.m.

Walnut Park

For the 21st consecutive year, the Petaluma Progressive Festival brings an array of speakers and performers to Walnut Park. Highlights this year include a presentation of the San Francisco Mime Troupe’s new musical ‘Seeing Red,’ talks by Daniel Ellsberg, Dorsey Nunn, Lulabel Seitz, and Peter Phillips, music by Locupa, and more. It’s free.

WANT TO KNOW MORE? Information at ProgressiveFestival.org.


Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 8 & 9, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.

Walnut Park

The Progressive Festival has nothing on the annual Art in the Park event, about to celebrate its 61st consecutive year in Petaluma. The Petaluma Arts Association invites you to come out to Walnut Park (corner of D St. and Petaluma Blvd.) to meet local artists, see their latest work, discuss the meaning of art, and eat some delicious snacks. Photography, jewelry, fine art, painting, drawing, sculpting and more will be on display, and for sale.

WANT TO KNOW MORE? Information at Petalumaarts.org.


Saturday, Sept. 8, Noon – 5 p.m.

Petaluma Fairgrounds

With the eye-catching tag-line “See things you can’t un-see!” the annual Lagunitas Beer Circus returns to Petaluma. The beneficiary this year is the non-profit Phoenix Theater, and General Circus Freaker tickets are a flat $40, which includes the first beer. Did we mention there will be beer?

WANT TO KNOW MORE? Information at Lagunitas.com.


Saturday, Sept. 15, 5:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.

The Block, Trolley-Railway Museum

Piano-playing musicians of all ages will compete for cash prizes and trophies on colorful, artistically-adorned pianos, as part of this tuneful fundraiser for Petaluma Trolley Living History Railway Museum. Petaluma’s John Maher – aka Petaluma Pete – is organizing this. $10 online, $12 at door.

WANT TO KNOW MORE? Visit Eventbrite.com (search for Petaluma Piano).


Saturday, Sept. 15, 1 p.m - 5 p.m.

Historic Downtown Petaluma

With the slogan “Brews from our backyard, right by the River,” local craft beer fanatics are invited to celebrate the 6th annual Petaluma River Craft Beer festival, sipping on 23 local breweries including Lagunitas, Henhouse, Fogbelt, 2 Tread, Bear Republic and more. Food and drink will be accompanied by live music by the riverfront. You must be 21+ to attend this event. Tickets are $40.

WANT TO KNOW MORE? Visit Petalumarivercraftbeerfest.org

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