Counting on the Charms of the County Fair – Elizabeth Coombs

The Los Angeles County Fair is back: our month-long celebration of handsome livestock, homegrown vegetables, handmade crafts, hair-raising rides, and fryolated foods. Beginning Labor Day weekend, the 2011 fair runs until Oct. 2, at the FairPlex in Pomona.

On an editorial note, I use “Fairplex,” the venue’s official name, not out of deference to any destination “branding” effort, but out of concern for fellow Garmin GPS users. My husband and I discovered that our vehicular navigation system, updated just six months ago, will not divulge driving directions to hapless rubes searching on variations of “Los Angeles County Fair” or “County Fairgrounds.”

But get there we did, and before noon, too, so we could take advantage of opening weekend’s $1-Before-1 p.m. admission special. So I am happy to report that the fair is just as chock full of family fun as ever. Yes, you can still get Deep-Fried Frog Legs, an elephant-sized Square Bob Sponge Pants, and a new hot tub there. But after a two-year hiatus spent at the smaller, less crowded and oceanside (read: less sweltering) Ventura County Fair, still my favorite, I came away convinced that this year’s LA County is laid out better. It seems to have more shady areas, and in the exhibit halls, more room to move around as well as comfortable places to sit, than before. More places to sit! Did you get that? More comfortable seats!

We spent 10 hours there, and sadly, we did not make it to the barns. Next visit! I missed gushing over the lop-eared bunnies. Nor did we try much in the Kids’ Zone, my 11-year-old now being “almost an adult,” she says. We even missed the cultural performances in Heritage Square. Too bad. This year’s “It” countries are Mexico, Guatemala and Slovakia. From the fair program, it seems that some of the performances are a fusion of cultures. Or maybe I’m just a sucker for anything fusion (or “Fushion” as my copy spells it). Maybe they meant “Fashion.” Somebody, clear this up for me.

In the portion of the fair we did cover, I can recommend more than a dozen things you’ll be glad you checked out. Please, go forth and return with your own list, and don’t forget to share it here on Crossroads.

What to Do at the 2011 LA County Fair:

BBQ Beef Sundae, $6, at a stand next to the entrance to Wilderness Ridge. I was not disappointed with my first meal-in-a-cup ever. A large dollop of tender, boneless beef crowning a glob of fresh mashed potatoes, this item was more flavorful and less chewy than the BBQ pork chop and beef ribs. And, while filling, it left me with just enough room for …

Dr. Bob’s Homemade Ice Cream, in The Marketplace next door. I was disappointed that Dr. Bob isn’t offering his date or honey flavors this year, but the caramel was divine, as were the generous scoops of espresso in my husband’s rootbeer float.

Lounge in the Shade on cushioned patio furniture in front of The Marketplace, and order prize-winning beers from the outdoor bar. Or if you prefer, saunter up to …

The Beer Patio inside The Marketplace, while your companions enjoy tastings of Gold Medal Wines ($3 per taste, $11 for a flight of five tastes.) You can sit and critique libations together at the circular tables that fill the interior of the Marketplace.

Learn to Fly on a Trapeze, at Esmeralda’s Traveling Circus, just $10 for one good swing with full harnessing. To commemorate your first flight, pick up a trapeze-emblem T-shirt or tank for $20. Esmeralda is also offering a Circus School, Elephants on Parade and a Make-Believe Circus, but I’m making believe that we got to these attractions.

Next, if your high-flying experience has left you feeling shaky …

Buy a Forest Lawn Funeral Plan from the booth in The Shopping Place.

Or, if your trapeze ride has you seeing your name in lights …

Get a 15-Minute Blue-Light Tooth-Whitening treatment. Lay down on a cot, smile and be prepared for the $39.99 treatment to lighten your choppers up to eight shades.

Drink the Deep-Fried Kool Aid at one of the many Chicken Charlie’s stands sprinkled around the fair. Unlike the deep-fried cola we tried a few years back—loose bits of nearly burned batter—this was tasty, and not nearly as greasy as it sounds. The Kool Aid dumplings reminded me of warm, cherry-flavored donut holes. And unless you eat several baskets, you can probably still …

Ride the Bull, Sissy Boy, for just $10 at Bubba’s Bull Riding near the Grandstand. BTW, Bubba said “Sissy,” not me. While the bull seems to move more slowly and sensuously when a young woman is riding (hmmmm), the only sissies I saw were the ones outside the bull pen, shouting tips to those actually getting dashed to the ground. Or, for a different kind of excitement …

Laugh with the Kids when a mad scientist ignites his lab coat. The Phabulous Physics show in the Kids’ Zone thrills and chills while teaching kids the science of Fire and Ice.

Use Any Restroom Except the ladies’ room outside the Flower & Garden Pavilion. Now, some of the loos even have lounge areas—four glider chairs, even, in The Grandstand! But the one at the rear of the Flower & Garden Pavilion has only four stalls and a line like you can imagine.

Examine some amazing collections, including antique mechanical coin banks, decorative hard hats, and vintage toy race cars and laser guns at Elections: The Art of Collection, in the Millard Sheets Center for the Arts.

Graze Some of the Upscale Food Trucks present this year, including Armenian food, French crepes, Calbi Tacos (their spelling), or my favorite, Harold & Belle’s To Geaux Cajun Food between The Shopping Place and the Kids’ Carnival.

Last, because our bulging bellies and aching feet got the better of us …

Be My Taste Tester. Try the Wild Boar Ragu at Cellar Café in The Marketplace on your way out. Tell me how you liked it, or better yet, bring me back some.

So that’s it. That’s all we could do. Now it’s your turn. Before you go, check the website, www.lacountyfair.com for directions, performance schedules and admission specials.

www.culvercitysymphony.org

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