What began as a simple barn to honor the memory of the late Saralee McClelland Kunde, a Holstein cow rancher, and a wine-grape grower together with her husband Richard, has become a centerpiece at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds.
The stylish barn-like structure exemplifies the new heart and soul of the fairgrounds, according to Ken LaFranchi, architect for this project, fulfilling Saralee and Richard’s dream of having a permanent agricultural education and support center.
This is the first new structure to be built inside the fairgrounds in half a century. It debuted during the 80th annual fair that opened on July 22, 2016, offering fair visitors and their children a chance to see baby farm animals up close and “milk” Sweet Lil, an acrylic cow, inside the 12,000-square foot building.
“The design intent was to create a central gathering place for all users of the fairgrounds. Our hope was to display Saralee’s love for and endless energy and dedication to agriculture, with a development that included warmth, stable forms and an earthy feel,” LaFranchi said.
The barn began with an agrarian theme featuring board and batten siding, a gable metal roof with rain hoods and cupola accents. The colors include “Texas Boots” brown siding, a “Deep Country” green roof, and “Cabernet Craving” wine accents.
LaFranchi said the project grew to include an attractive cobbled plaza including a central fountain with a dairy cow motif, arched steel entry elements and a casual olive tree grove and gathering place.
The barn serves as a cornerstone for year-round agricultural education to showcase and promote the county’s heritage and its $4 billion industry. It will also be a venue for providing lessons and first-hand farm experiences for youth and adults from all walks of life.
In addition, it will serve as a site to host fundraising dinners and wine competitions, the Sonoma County Farm Bureau’s Ag Days for more than 4,000 school children, as well as culinary demonstrations. Other functions include farm-to-table activities, 4-H and Future Farmers of America seminars and meetings, livestock events, private gatherings, etc.
Saralee & Richard’s Barn
Owner/Developer: County of Sonoma
Contractor: Wright Contracting
Architect: LaFranchi Architecture
Cost: $3 million
Funding: Donations to the Sonoma County Fair Foundation