Pomona is closer to the San Bernardino County line than to downtown Los Angeles, but for more than 85 years, millions of Angelenos have made the drive to check out the end-of-summer extravaganza known as the L.A. County Fair. This year, we learned that on Fridays, you can get into the Fair in exchange for five cans of Ralph's brand food. So we hit the grocery store and headed down to the Fairplex in search of the strange, the cool and the scary. After getting sidetracked by the overwhelming cuteness of baby animals, we came across these finds.
There's something disturbing about talking to a representative of Forest Lawn Memorial Parks and Mortuaries about pre-planning your funeral at the County Fair. At the very least, it makes you think twice about going on the Zipper afterwards. However, we couldn't resist the allure of a Dodger coffin. This is more hardcore than painting your pickup truck Dodger blue, more permanent than a tattoo. Planning to spend the rest of eternity in a box dedicated to the home team is the ultimate expression of baseball fanaticism. Who will be that guy?
These dolls were hand carved and hand painted in Russia, but they bear a certain level of kitsch that could only be appreciated at the Fair. Note the way that the nesting doll on the right corresponds with Elvis' career trajectory. We're sensing a new trend in Russian crafts. Bring on the celebrity nesting dolls.
Chocolate covered bacon, which we should point out is more chocolate than bacon, is all over the County Fair. One of our companions picked up an order served cold and in a Chinese takeout container. He said it was the best $5.50 he spent. I took a taste of the treat. It's roughly equivalent to a chocolate covered pretzel and managed to soothe the burning in my mouth following an experiment with bacon-wrapped jalapeno poppers.
You can go to any fair in the U.S. and indulge in all sorts of food that's been dumped in batter and fried, but we have a feeling that "totally fried" avocado, served no less with lemon wedges and a pesto dipping sauce, is a beast of a California variety. Three of us split an order and came to the same conclusion, it's a little bland. We could barely taste the avocado and the fried exterior obscured its melt-in-your-mouth texture. Plus, it cost $7 and change. Since when did clogging one's arteries become so expensive?
Let's be blunt, if you're not a kid (human variety, baby goats don't seem to get out of the barn much), there's not a lot to do at the County Fair aside from eating and buying stuff. That is where the Tapestry section comes in handy. You can walk down the aisles and peruse the entries for the various craft competitions without dealing with people trying to sell you something. There is some incredibly cool stuff in here, like the Capri Sun jacket in the above photo. It's made of recycled materials and looks like it could come in handy during a rainstorm.
We had no idea that there was a competition for tablescapes, or elaborate table settings. Indeed, there is and one of the themes this year was fittingly "motion picture perfect." Judging for the competition is strict, a Wizard of Oz table that we loved lost points because "dessert dish placement and flatwear is questionable." The blue ribbon-winning Toy Story entry, though, was apparently flawless.
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Carnival rides aren't known for being tame. They flip you over, defy gravity and sometimes look like they might fall apart in the middle of the thrill. The Ejection Seat, though, is its own breed of crazy. Two people are strapped into something that resembles and oversized metal swing, which is attached to the base of the ride by two bungee-styled chords. The swing snaps towards the sky where it then flips over and over and over again. If you're watching this from the ground, you are almost guaranteed to hear one blood-curdling f-bomb after the next. If that isn't enough for you, though, the ride is videotaped, just in case you have the urge to relive the moment when your face turned white and you wondered a little too loudly, "What the fuck was I thinking?"
Forget stuffed animals and shared cotton candy, the new way to celebrate young love at the Fair is to have a wax cast of your clutched hands created at Wax Hand Jive. We're not sure what would possess anyone to have their hand recreated in wax, but the line for this stand was long on Friday night. Perhaps it's all for the best, though. If you are going to get a memento of the first big date, it might as well be something you can melt in the midst of a fight.