Growing up, the New York State Fair was all that and a bag of chips. It took place every year right at the end of summer and even if I try to explain why it was so awesome you still won't understand my infatuation because all of my memories are polished with a heaping dose of nostalgia.
But I can try to get you in my mind-set by telling you about the giant buildings filled with farm animals, and a butter sculpture, and a sand sculpture, and fried dough, and baked potatoes, and curly fries. And rides, rides, rides!
Hmm. Well forget it. It just ruled, okay?
Since I no longer live in New York State I haven't been in probably 6 or 7 years. So I thought maybe, just maybe, I could start a new west coast tradition for myself by visiting the O.C. Fair. And so last Sunday I went with Katie (fellow fair enthusiast) and Devin (reluctant skeptic) on a little road trip to visit our neighbors to the south in Orange County.
First off, this sounds stupid but I kind of didn't really know Orange County was so far away. I mean I knew where it was... kind of. And I'd been to it. But in my head I thought it took like 30 minutes to get there. Really, it was an hour and a half. At any rate, we made it and found free (free!) parking in a nearby business park with a shuttle bus to the site.
After waiting in a really long line at the fair's entrance (Minus points. NYS fair never has lines to get in!), we paid just $10 for a ticket. (This would be the only bargain of the day.)
As we walked in, immediately up ahead I spotted a petting zoo. Ding ding ding!
Would you just look at the teeneh tineh bebeh goats?
And this wooly calf?
The OC Fair may have had the cutest petting zoo ever, but these were some of the only animals on the premises. Later we saw oxen, some shorn sheep, and Alaskan racing pigs (yes, they run a race and yes it's amazing), but the animal display was nothing compared to the NYS fair. Although, I guess this was just the county's supply of prize winning livestock, and not the whole state's. And are there even farms in Orange County? (Knott's Berry Farm doesn't count.)
Enough about animals. One of the other big attractions of fairs is the food. The disgusting, greasy, delicious food. Although, I think in the last decade it's gotten even more disturbing. I'd heard tales of fried chicken nestled between Krispy Kreme donuts. And deep fried Snickers bars. Deep fried ice cream (how?). In a way, it's tempting to try these fat wads. You think, "Well it's not going to kill me to have a bite."
It's one thing to imagine trying such stuff. It's a whole other experience to see something like this.
That's right. Deep fried butter. Chocolate covered bacon. We couldn't even bring ourselves to get any closer for fear of absorbing air born lard particles.
But you know what we were more than happy to sample? Beers. Obviously this was the one part of the fair I never got to take part in as a kid. There were beer tents and-- if memory serves -- wine slushies. Grown ups seemed to be wasted.
And now I got to be a grown up too. Though, no, I didn't get wasted. At $10 a cup I couldn't afford to. Still, any outdoor activity improves immensely when one is allowed to walk around with an ice cold beer.
Now onto the buyable crap! And the OC Fair had plenty. In addition to vendors lining the walkways, there was also The Parade of Products, The Carnival of Products, The Festival of Products and The Product Promenade. Each of these was a warehouse-looking structure packed full of the kind of junk sold on infomercials or SkyMall. As Katie remarked while we walked through, "They've invented everything." Yes, they have. And I don't really want any of it.
Though I did join in on the purchase of designer knock-off sunglasses.
I know, I look adorable. But these are the darkest sunglasses on earth. I really couldn't read anything up close... or far away... or clearly make out facial expressions. And I nearly walked into stuff. It was as if the lenses had been tinted on both sides.
It wasn't long before we'd pretty much seen everything the fair had to offer except for the rides. When I was younger I would devote an entire day to going on the rides at the fair. I didn't care that the people who operated them had no teeth and were super creepy and seemed like they might snap and intentionally loosen one of the bolts holding the structure together. Aside from the tilt-a-whirl, which has ALWAYS been barftastic, I was up for trying anything.
Now, as an older, wiser, lamer version of myself, you couldn't pay me to go on those things. Every single ride seemed to shoot up into the air, upside down, backwards and inside out. They made me woozy just looking at them.
The one ride I would've considered was the ski lift that runs the length of the fairgrounds. These stuffed animals had the right idea.
But my companions were not so eager and I didn't care enough to pester. So, having decided to skip the rides, and having spent entirely too much money on beverages, we were out of things to do in about 3 hours. We dawdled around a short while longer and then hopped the bus back to our parking lot to head home.
While it doesn't hold a candle to the New York State Fair -- and really, what could? -- the OC Fair was a fun little outing. If I can get over my fear of artery-wrecking food and hastily assembled roller coasters, I could probably enjoy it even more.
I might even check it out next year.