Under the Sun: Interviews ~ Sonoma Valley Sun

Sonoma Valley Sun


Under the Sun: Shannon Lee, Glen Ellen catalyst

Posted on October 2, 2023 by Sonoma Valley Sun

Anticipating the annual Glen Ellen Village Fair, The Sun’s Anna Pier met with Fair Association President Shannon Lee to learn about the upcoming Fair, as well as Lee’s many interests and accomplishments.

How long have you been involved with the Glen Ellen Village Fair?  

I’ve lived in Glen Ellen since 2009. This is the Fair’s 32nd year, and I’ve been officially involved, first as treasurer, and now as board president of the nonprofit Glen Ellen Fair Association, for over ten years. There are a lot of nonprofits in this small place – the Glen Ellen Forum, the North Valley Municipal Advisory Commission, the GE Historical Society, SDC Next 100, Sonoma Mountain Preservation, even the Jack London Yacht Club. The Forum became a nonprofit after the fire of 2017, and the MAC, which has the official ear of the Supervisors, was created then. They are like “wings on the same bird,” concerned with governance and how to have a voice at the County. 

Talk about running the Village Fair.

The executive board is year-round, but about six months before the Fair lots of people get involved. Volunteering with the Fair has allowed me to meet so many people and feel like I’m part of this community that I now call home. The Fair is always the second Sunday in October, from 12-5pm. The theme of the 2017 Fair was “Spirit of SDC,” which was about to close. There were lots of participants from SDC, including clients, employees, friends and family. It was the most joyful, emotional event for our whole community. Then that night was the fire. Within 24 hours 175 houses in Glen Ellen had burned. 

More about the Fair?  

Our theme this year is “Spirit of Dunbar.” Timothy Dixon, who did our poster, is the featured artist. The official GE Fair logo, created by a graphic designer from Glen Ellen, will be unveiled, and available on tee shirts for sale. There will also be two tee shirts for the Dunbar mascot rivalry –  for Demons or for Dolphins. We’re raffling tickets to the Transcendence holiday show, other items, including some of the quilts won in previous years’ raffles. There’ll be lots of artisan booths – everything from African baskets to repurposed license plates. Clothing, jewelry, trinkets, birdfeeders, ceramics, art, more. This year the popular Kids Alley is returning to Carmel Avenue, organized by the Sonoma Charter School.

How is the Fair financed?  

Mainly the vendors and the booth fees. Our biggest cost is hiring the CHP to be at both ends, London Ranch Road and Warm Springs Road, while Arnold Drive is officially closed from 9:30 -6pm. Other nonprofits donate, for instance, the JL Yacht Club, which grew out of the fires, is sponsoring our port-a-potties this year. The Forum sponsors the music, just a little stipend for the performers. The Fair depends on its volunteers. And when it’s all over, we give a little to various local nonprofits.

What is your day job? 

I’m a professor at Sonoma State University in the Biology Department. My specialty is invertebrates. I’m most curious about their life cycles – how they reproduce, what the embryonic stages are. I got a B.S. in Marine Biology at UC Santa Cruz. My husband, Steven Lee, was at UCSC too, and he and I joke that we met underwater. We were both doing a lot of research diving. If you spend a lot of time underwater and in small boats, and still want to be together, it’s a good sign. 

How did you get interested in marine biology? 

I was born and raised around San Diego, living between Pacific Beach and La Jolla. My life revolved around the ocean, including windsurfing. In high school I was lucky enough to take a one-semester elective in oceanography. That sealed the deal. After undergrad, I stayed at UCSC for a M.S. in Marine Biology, then went to UCLA where I got a Ph.D. in Biology in 2003. 

How did you come to live here? 

My husband Steve has lived in Glen Ellen since he was four, on the six-acre farm where we have lived with his parents. I love farming; goats, chickens, vegetables. We used to sell at small farmers’ markets, like the one at the Springs Plaza. It’s a lot of work without the kids to help. Our two older daughters are at college, and the youngest in high school.

What was your childhood dream? 

As a child I spent a lot of time dancing. Tap, jazz, ballet. I really liked performing. Dance, theater. Before college I was contemplating going to NYC to try for a career in dance, or choreography. It probably wouldn’t have been successful. At UCSC I tried to do a double major, dance and biology, but it was logistically challenging with the schedule of science classes. 

Still dancing? 

I’m in a tap company, the ‘Footnotes,’ through the Santa Rosa Dance Center. 

Other work? 

Lots of volunteer work. Seems like I’m working all the time. For more than five years I was the Glen Ellen columnist for the Kenwood Press. Now I write for them occasionally as a science writer. 

Last thoughts? 

Come out to the Fair on Sunday the 8th! And volunteer for next year. Small town events and traditions are so important, but it takes folks volunteering their time to make them happen.  




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