If you’re a history buff, you have to love Fair Oaks.
Not only does the community celebrate historical roots that date back to before the Gold Rush, but it also celebrates the history of the feral chickens that roost in quaint Fair Oaks Village.
In its earliest days, Fair Oaks was originally part of a larger area inhabited by the Maidu Indian tribe and was later part of the 1844 Mexican Land Grant of Rancho San Juan, which included Citrus Heights, Carmichael and Orangevale.
Some people think the area was named Fair Oaks because of its hills and oak forest, according to the Fair Oaks Historical Society website. But another version says it was named after Fair Oaks, Va., where a Civil War battle was fought.
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In 1895 the area was developed as Sunset Colony by the Howard-Wilson Publishing Co. of Chicago and was promoted for its citrus crops. That meant the oak forest had to go, so the trees were cut and sold as cord wood.
In the late 1890s, the Fair Oaks Development Co. took over the area, which, in the early 1900s, began to thrive with merchants, churches, a post office, a bank and a newspaper.
In 1932 a freeze wiped out the citrus crops and changed the town.
Today, Fair Oaks is a vibrant community whose heritage is reflected in a few organizations and buildings that have been around for100 or more years.
The Women’s Thursday Club, a service club founded in 1902, meets in its own clubhouse on Fair Oaks Boulevard. It’s dedicated to the cultural, educational and social well-being of the community. Members also enjoy social activities.
The Fair Oaks Historical Society, a comparatively young organization formed in 1977, meets quarterly in the historical Fair Oaks Clubhouse, once the site of Fair Oaks School, built circa 1902.
Dorothy Cabodi, 95, and Mickey Showers, 91, are active members of the society. Cabodi has lived in Fair Oaks since 1938 and Showers since 1944.
They agree that, in the early days, Fair Oaks was a friendly place where everybody knew each other. Their children grew up together, and the two mothers always knew where their children were.
Although the community has grown up around the village area, the women still enjoy walking there, stopping to talk to people.
Another Fair Oaks resident, Lois Frazier, lives on a property that she and her husband, Wendell, bought in 1930. They have lived there continuously except for the time he served in World War II.
“This has always been a nice community, always close-knit,” she said. “The area has been improved, and people are still friendly and nice.”
The Fraziers were responsible for starting the Fair Oaks Theatre Festival, now in its 30th year of outdoor summertime performances held in the Veterans Memorial Amphitheatre near the clubhouse.
The theater is just one of the things that Brent and Ina Booth like about Fair Oaks.
“We have just about everything in Fair Oaks — plays, concerts in the park, tennis courts, soccer fields and the nearby Sacramento State Aquatic Center (in Gold River),” Brent Booth said.
The Booths have lived in several places, moving every two or three years because of his job as a civil engineer, which took them to Venezuela, Chile and Saudi Arabia. They settled in Fair Oaks when they returned to the United States in 1986. They bought a home in Fair Oaks’ Curragh Downs area.
“We had just come home from Saudi Arabia and were looking for a home in the Bay area and all around here,” Ina Booth said.
They had previously lived in Orangevale so knew the area. They chose Curragh Downs because of its proximity to the American River, biking and running trails, the homeowners association's progressive dinners and barbecues, Fair Oaks churches and Highway 50.
Curragh Downs originally had several horse properties. Its equestrian trails are now used for pedestrian access to the American River.
“It’s nice and quiet, with lots of trees and animals — squirrels, deer, skunks, turkeys, peacocks and birds,” Brent Booth said. “There are no chickens. They’re in Fair Oaks Village.”
The ever-growing fowl population has the run of the village, in fact, and they’re the focus of a daylong annual celebration. The 7th annual Fair Oaks Chicken Festival will be from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sept. 15.
Approximately 15,000 people are expected to attend the event, which features entertainment, merchants and a children's zone, said Jan Bass Otto, executive director of the Fair Oaks Chamber of Commerce.
“The children’s zone in Village Park has a tent so big you’d expect to see it in Donald Trump's backyard,” Otto said. “There’s a bounce castle, children’s games and concessions. The big people — the adults — will hear bands, including Mumbo Gumbo, visit tons of vendors and shop in the charming Fair Oaks Village. We draw from all over the area for the Chicken Festival. It’s a must-come-to event.”
Katy Albers, recreation superintendent for the Fair Oaks Recreation and Park District, said the festival was started by people who wanted to celebrate the history of Fair Oaks.
“Whether you like them or not, you can’t celebrate the history without the chickens,” she said.
Fair Oaks offers a fairly large number of events for a community its size.
“It is definitely one of the most charming and activity-driven communities in the area,” Otto said.
In June, Fair Oaks launched a year-round farmers market, held from 3 to 8 p.m. Wednesdays at Plaza Park on Park Drive.
Also new this year were silent movies and live theater-organ music at the Fair Oaks Community Clubhouse. The movies were so popular, they’re scheduled again for January, said Maureen Zamarripa, executive director of the park district.
Concerts in the Park, sponsored by the park district, the chamber and the Fair Oaks Foundation for Leisure and the Arts, are held from 7 to 9 p.m. Thursdays through Aug. 30 at Village Park.
The last in a series of summertime movies, “The Little Rascals” will be shown at Village Park. The district’s Wonderful Outdoor World bus will offer games and arts and crafts an hour before the movie begins at dusk.
Fair Oaks Theatre productions will continue through the beginning of October. Two musicals and a comedy night are on the schedule.
Christmas in the Village will be held Dec. 1, featuring carols, vendor booths, crafts and a parade with Santa, Mrs. Claus and imposter reindeer -- goats or llamas, Otto said.
Fair Oaks has nine parks, some with picnic areas and playgrounds and others with more expanded amenities.
Fair Oaks Park near the library has a skateboard park, a horticultural center, a community garden and softball fields. Phoenix Park has Little League baseball and soccer fields, a dog park and vernal pools.
“In spring, the pools are amazing,” Zamarripa said. “There are wildflowers not seen the rest of the year.”
The Booths’ neighborhood, Curragh Downs, which had horse properties when it was established in 1973, takes its name from a racetrack outside of Dublin, Ireland. Streets are named for famous race horses or racing events, including Riva Ridge Drive, Bold Ruler Way and Triple Crown Court.
It’s just one community in Fair Oaks with theme-named streets. Others include the Hawaiian tract, with Maui Way and Oahu Drive, and the bird tract, with Robin Road and Quail Road. The areas have lower-priced, starter homes suitable for first-time homebuyers.
Larger, more expensive homes are in the Phoenix Field area, the site of a former small airport, and in Rollingwood, which has ranch-style residences. The areas around Old Fair Oaks Village that back up to the American River are prime real estate locations.
Pat Gaston of Plumb Realty and her husband have lived in Fair Oaks for 40 years. Her grandmother attended the old Fair Oaks School.
“We live on property near Bella Vista High School,” Gaston said. “It’s 1 acre and very rural, but we can almost see the mall.”
Sunrise Mall is less than two miles away.
“People don't move once they get here,” she said. “It’s a little bedroom community that everybody likes. When people say Fair Oaks, they have an idea of community and a nice place to live.”
Lower-priced homes in Fair Oaks range from $150,000 to $155,000. Higher-priced homes are in the $600,000s, and a few $1 million homes are available.
“Prices are starting to climb, so if anybody wants to live in Fair Oaks, they ought to get busy,” Gaston said.
True Life Communities’ Woodlands enclave offers new homes on Braxton Street, off Fair Oaks Boulevard. The three-bedroom homes are priced from approximately $350,000.
Fair Oaks is a fun place, said Otto, who enjoys watching the chickens cross the road and stay within the crosswalks.
“With the street improvements and lighting that are scheduled, I want to see if they will use the new crosswalks,” she said.
Although the Chicken Festival is one of the biggest events of the year in Fair Oaks Village, some people won’t join in the fowl celebration.
“Those roosters wake us up every morning at 4:30 a.m.,” longtime resident Dorothy Huggett said. “Not everyone loves them.”