I am a staunch supporter of county fairs. Although seeing how the ‘funnel cake + newborn farm animals + ferris wheel’ combo is a first place prize-winner, this may be akin to saying that I am a staunch supporter of puppies and world peace.
When you hate on the fair, the terrorists win.
In all the hustle and bustle of moving cross-country, I looked at the calendar last week and realized there was exactly ONE weekend left at the Los Angeles County Fair.
Saturday, please meet your plans.
Day #11,484: Mr. M & Sister S & I arrived when the roasty summer sun was at its zenith, so we opted to hit the indoor, air-conditioned shopping pavilions first.
Judging by the wares for sale, the pavilions are less for actual shopping and more for bemused browsing. I’d guess there are very, very few people who require a one-man sauna or a bedazzled purse reborn from deconstructed acid-washed Mom Jeans. (Disclaimer: The number of people lining up to buy suggests my theory is very wrong.)
Fair Rule #1: You do not need ___[fill in the blank]__.
Fair Rule #1(b): You especially do not need___[fill in the blank]___ if it’s been featured on a late-night infomercial.
I ignored my own rule and nearly ended up with a shrunken, rainbow-fringed Peruvian poncho made of alpaca wool and featuring an embroidered landscape- complete with smiley-faced sun!- emblazoned across the chest.
Mr. M suggested that I step outside for a little air before pulling the trigger on my radical find.
The featured Flower & Garden exhibit just so happened to be Brazil-themed, which reminded Mr. M & I of last summer’s trip to Rio de Janeiro!
While I would’ve been content to buzz about the flowers all afternoon, Mr. M had one request and that was to watch the pig races.
Because pigs will not race for the glory of the win, they must be bribed to run with Oreo cookies distributed at the finish line (hey- me too!). Apparently everyone– piggies included- indulge in a little junk food at the fair.
It was all good until the end of the show when Ralphs, the sponsoring supermarket, gave away coupons for free bacon. :| (That’s me, not amused.) Don’t listen, you sprinting piglets! Just keep running!
Fair Rule #2: Don’t be scared: it’s called Nature.
As we made our way into the iconic Big Red Barn, we *just* missed a newborn calf entering the world… but DID happen to catch its exhausted mom eating her own placenta after the birth. This is 100% normal bovine behavior, but I’ll admit that it is a little disconcerting to watch a normally herbivorous cow act like a flesh-eating zombie. Kids and adults alike (and Mr. M) squealed in horror as the gentle-cow-gone-murderously-wrong chewed on a giant piece of bloody flesh.
It was f-in’ fantastic.
Years ago, the L.A. county fair ran commercials with the tagline: It’s just what L.A. needs. (“Look, Ashley! It’s cashmere in its natural state!” “Um, it’s called free-range cashmere,” she explains, while both point at a dairy cow.) Because this isn’t a heinous exaggeration, I wish the L.A. county fair would put more of an emphasis on learning, like the state fair in Sacramento does.
I love this commercial with L.A. kids talking about ‘what comes from cows.’
I wanted more dioramas! More milking demonstrations! More farm equipment at which to marvel!
Edu-ma-cate me, county fair!
Honestly, it wasn’t entirely as devoid of education as I make it seem. The fair did maintain its ever edu-taining garden, where all sorts of fruits and veggies are well-labeled and alive out from under the usual fluorescent supermarket lights.
Fair Rule #3: County fair flora shall not take a backseat to flashier [placenta-eating] fauna.
Country folk may laugh, but it’s really informative getting to see where our food actually comes from! I just recently saw my first peanut plant (the “peanut” we know and love kinda dangles at the root of the bush- so do cashews, incidentally!). And did you know that asparagus stalks grow straight out of the ground? That was one I’d never thought about before!
Two other learning wins: the apiary, which showcased beekeeping and honey harvesting (and reminded me of our trip to Kangaroo Island in Australia)… and, the star of the day… a real, live blacksmith!
We were hooked from the very beginning of the blacksmith’s demonstration. Sister S is even looking into taking classes with the California Blacksmith Association; she’s determined to craft her own horse head bottle opener, and I’ve put in a request for a set of spurs. To wear with what, I don’t know. Maybe my ill-fitting Peruvian sweater.
Addendum to Fair Rule #1: You do not need ___[fill in the blank]__. Unless [fill in the blank] is a funnel cake or a churro or roasted corn on a stick. In which case, you DO need it, and ignore the haters.
My love of the fair may have its roots in my childhood obsession with the animated movie Charlotte’s Web (based on E.B. White’s book, of course). One of my favorite scenes was when Templeton the rat was set loose in the fairgrounds to sing and wallow in the food scraps of fairgoers’ gluttony.
In the name of gluttonous rats everywhere (or at least those living in the Pomona Fairplex), I ended the night with my first ever deep-fried Snickers.
Templeton the Rat had it right in his apple-core-and-hot-dog-fueled serenade: the fair IS a veritable smorgasbord. A smorgasbord of food… that goes without saying!
But also of knowledge and the kind of kitschy Americana that’s rare to be found outside a cross-country road trip.
Fair Rule #4: Go.
Details of the Day: There are ALWAYS coupons online and in local newspapers for discounted fair entry. You can also usually get a cheaper fare just by purchasing your ticket online ahead of time. Don’t pay full price for your summer fun!
In addition to helping the environment, bringing your own canteen to the fair will save a lot of $$ on a hot day (seriously. plastic bottles of water were going for $4 a pop). Sparkletts water seems to have a booth at every single fair I’ve ever been to, where you can fill up whenever needed! Adios, plastic bottles!