Monday, September 7, 2009
LA County Fair - no MN State Fair, but it'll do
We usually visit our Minneapolis relatives in late August and one of the highlights is our traditional trip to the Minnesota State Fair, which is surely the epitome of the American Fair - enormous warehouse-like barns holding hundreds of cows, pigs, horses, fowl, and llamas, every kind of food on a stick possible (usually deepfried - have you every tried bacon wrapped around a hardboiled egg, dipped in batter, and deepfried? Neither have I), and of course the life-sized butter sculptures of the year's Dairy Queen and her court (carved in a rotating glass-walled freezer while you watch!).
Our MN trip was in early July this year, so to satisfy our fair jones, my daughter and I spent Sunday of Labor Day weekend at the LA County Fair. It had been quite a few years since our last visit, and I remembered it as being a fairly respectable fair - no Minnesota State Fair, of course, but certainly up to snuff as these things go.
I don't think my memory is completely faulty - things have changed at the LA County Fair, and not for the better. However, it's always best to start off with the good stuff.
1. Plenty o' parking - this is LA County, after all! Got to have parking.
2. A really huge Ferris wheel right next to the main entrance, just right for getting your bearings.
3. One of the most amazing outdoor miniature railroad set-ups I have ever seen. Huge, meticulously decorated, and run by obsessed men in engineer's caps (who will happily explain anything you need to know), there were dozens of trains. Thrillingly, there was even a steampunk train!
4. An hilly, grassy, shady nook at the southern end of the fairgrounds, which for some reason this year features some ostriches, a baby zebra, a couple of camels, and two zebus. Not many people make their way to this part of the fair, which is the perfect place to decompress.
Alright, on to the not-so-good stuff:
1. Only one smallish animal barn, which was (as you can imagine) stuffed to the gills with all the folks wanting to see some real live animals. Not dead, chopped-up, and deep-fried animals (which were to be had at most food stands), but the mooing, oinking, baaing kind. It was so packed that I didn't even try to enter. VERY disappointing, especially after my Minneapolis sis had just posted all her Fair photos, filled with baby pigs and fluffy bunnies and soulful llamas.
2. Only one small hall filled with the stuff (baked goods, art, sewing projects, canned goods, etc) folks had entered in contests. I seem to remember there being more of this in years past. Luckily, the table settings were front and center, and Nadia and I spent a long time gazing at them in wonderment.
3. Too much stuff to buy! This was really horrifying - there are something like 9 "halls" at the LA County Fair, and every last one of them was stuffed with booths of folks selling the stuff you see advertised on television late at night. There is nothing more depressing than row upon row of miracle cleaners, devices that make your hair pouf up in front, and shoe inserts. At least a few of those halls used to contain the contest exhibitions (one of my favorites was always kids' collections - bottle caps, hotel soap, hot wheels, Harry Potter stuff, that kind of thing) and exotic bunnies and fowl. Once, my other daughter Vivian and I tried to win a small and gorgeous hen in a raffle. We didn't win - but man, was that fun. Now it's all about shopping - like we don't get enough opportunity to do that anyway.
4. The Fair food is unimaginative. No Australian battered potatoes, no Scotch eggs, no Mocha on a Stick - just bbq, hot dogs, pizza, and the occasional deep-fried Snickers or frog legs. We did feast on some delicious freshly made potato chips, however, and of course you can never go wrong with soft ice cream and corn on the cob.
We had plenty of fun, Nadia and I, especially once we discovered the ostriches. However, ostriches are no substitute for baby pigs. Next year, I'm going back to the Fair of Fairs in Minnesota.