When you put the address, 88 Fair Drive, into Waze, it brings you right to the Yellow Gate, which also happens to be the farm animal area. This was unplanned perfection as the only thing Blue expressed any interest in seeing was the livestock. But first...
the FFA/4H turkey judging competition.
From there, we grabbed some turkey leg tacos (sorry...how could we not?) and headed over to watch the pig races.
The rest of the livestock is in this area, as well. Cattle, goats, sheep, pigs, rabbits, lambs and chickens are all in various stages of preparing to be judged. From bathing the goats and babysitting the herd...
Especially this lady...
While Blue makes a bee line for the farm animals every year, my first stop is the cake competition. And it never fails to amaze and inspire. Although I am still waiting for Nailed It to call about the blueberry murder scene I tried to pass off as snowman pancakes last Christmas, I can't help but look for a way to recreate these beauties.
Some of my other favorites from the arts & crafts competitions (and events I've never seen at a fair before, such as the table decorating contest, which judges the participant based on accuracy of the theme and correctly placed utensils on the table. How very Downton Abby of them.).
But there was more amazingness to be found in the Promenade building.
And then there was the wedding of James Irvine (of Irvine, California...yes, that Irvine family) and Susan Jeske (the first Ms. America and current CEO of the Ms. America Pageant) last month. As you can imagine, it was quite the storybook affair. So much so, as it turns out, that the wedding dress, shoes, cake, champagne glasses and the brooch bouquet were on display at the fair. Sort of unusual as far as fair exhibits go, but they are the darlings of Orange County.
Don't miss an opportunity to "Free Your Inner Farmer" by Instagramming your kitchen gadget angel wings
After all that, we needed ice cream. Blue settled on a boring blended cone, but I had to have the cow patty.
We skipped the carnival rides and games and headed to "Centennial Farm", where the milking demonstration was held and we missed our chance to walk right up and order a Pink's hotdog.
I also nearly had a 5-year old fit when the tween working the register at Pignotti's told me they hadn't started making the spaghetti doughnuts yet. I mean, how do you advertise a spaghetti doughnut and then not deliver on the second day of the fair? I think I've figured out how to make them at home, but if someone goes and has one, please Skype me before you dig in.
We finally wandered over to the "Family Fairway" after watching the cows being milked, just in time for the Russell Brothers Circus show. After buying the $2 (6-page) coloring book they were hawking (Neal pointed out it was the cheapest way to buy a souvenir from the fair, especially since we had nixed the stuffed pig Blue was begging for after the pig races), we settled in for a fun demonstration of magic and human talent. Neal seems to think this is a 3-generation affair, with the father being the magician...
the son performing feats of human strength and balance
After the disappointment of the spaghetti doughnut, I was further convinced that I needed to try the peanut butter & jelly & sriracha funnel cake being offered just outside the big top. Neal tried to pretend like he wasn't going to have any, but I grabbed 3 forks because I'm not an idiot. It was sweet, spicy and just a little nutty. It was perfection on a plate.
Three years runnin'...
There is also a petting zoo in this area. Nothing too exotic. Well, except for these guys.
By this point, we had been at the fair for about 7 1/2 hours. The sun was starting to set and people were arriving by the hundreds, with a line forming at the ticket stands and traffic backing up onto the freeway from the off-ramp. It was time for us to go. Thank you, Orange County Fair. It was the real deal.
If you go:
1. Parking is $10/vehicle, cash.
2. There are bathrooms EVERYWHERE. If there is a line, don't even stand there. You'll find another one in about 50 feet.
3. Most food vendors accept credit cards, some do not.
4. Active duty Servicemembers get in free, they can buy 1/2 price tickets for their family members. I don't think the family members get this rate if the Servicemember isn't with them.
5. There is a gigantic stand of daily maps/schedules when you enter the gate. They are free. Grab one. Use it.
6. Some events are scheduled at certain times, such as the Peking Acrobats (which I highly recommend seeing - we caught the very end but it looked like a great show), the pig racing and the animal judging.
7. There are annoying vendors trying to sell time shares in exotic locales like Hawaii. Ignore them like the folks trying to sell phones at the entrance of Costco and you'll be fine.
8. If you want to pay $2/person to go into a trailer to see a live alligator in the livestock area, go for it. But we skipped it and I think that's OK, too.
9. If something looks interesting, go check it out. As we were meandering around the ice cream truck, we stumbled upon the Irish band and while on our way to the petting zoo, we came across a brass band. You literally never know what will be around the next corner.
10. The earlier the better to beat the crowds. I thought coming in when the doors opened at 11 would be a challenge, but as it turns out, most people don't start really showing up until 7 hours later. I'm sure the fair is magical like Disneyland at night, but just know you won't be the only one with that idea.
Also...the orange trees aren't real.