OC Fair 2018 Recap

Orange County Fairgrounds, Costa Mesa, CA

Happy Hump Day, everyone, and welcome to another large scale photo spread!  Today, we're taking a look at opening weekend at the Orange County Fair, which kicked off this past Friday the 13th (spoooooky!--wait, spooky July things are at the end of the month).  Every year, the O.C.f Fair brings an abundance of ridiculous food, crazy rides, bountiful livestock, and plenty of exhibits, and this year is no exception.

2018 brings the theme "Free Your Inner Farmer" to the fair.  It's a celebration of all things agriculture.  That's not a huge departure from the usual fair fare, so lets take an extensive look at the various offerings this year!

Ambiance and Attractions

This year's OC Fair once again takes place at the Orange County Fairgrounds, in Costa Mesa.  Take the 55 south past the I-405 and 73 freeways, exiting on Fair Drive, and follow the signs (and traffic).  Guests can park on site at the Fair for $10 standard, though shuttles from 9 sites throughout Orange County are also available at a lower rate.  

The Fair has 3 entrances--green to the west, the main blue gate to the south, and yellow to the east.  Expect notable security screening on the part of typical Southern California theme parks, which means a bag check plus metal detectors.  Once inside, guests will once again find the Fair divided into six general areas: Plaza Pacifica and Family Fairway to the west, Centennial Farm, Fair Square, and Main Mall in the center, and Livestock and Carnival to the east.  There's plenty to see and do for thrill seekers and family groups, as you'll soon see.

Fair Competitions

While most of the Fair actually remains relatively consistent from year to year (the carnival games and rides, livestock exhibits, and farm-related set-ups), where the Fair offers new and unique content every year lies in the multitude of competition exhibits scattered throughout the fairgrounds.  Every year, thousands of participants submit entries in various types of arts and crafts and creative endeavors, plus farming and gardening examples, in hopes of being featured at the OC Fair.  And the resulting exhibits range from a display of impressive technical mastery to interesting and quirky showcases to sometimes just plain bizarre displays

The bulk of the competition-related items is located in Main Mall, at the heart of the fairgrounds.  The right three buildings west of the central walkway house numerous examples of crafts, woodworking culinary art pieces, photography, and graphic arts.  In addition, Centennial Farm features fruit and vegetable entries for categories ranging from most beautiful to most sizeable to most interesting looking--plus cut flower, miniature horticulture, and collections exhibits.  There's also a kids' exhibits area in the Explorium tent located in the Family Fairway, featuring a variety of artwork, photography, and collections from elementary school aged children.

One item I noticed this year was the repeated exhbition of items related to the wedding of Susan Jeske, former Miss America and current CEO of the Miss America organization, and James M. Irvine, heir to the immensely powerful Irvine family (yes, that Irvine family).  Her dress and jewelry are featured in the Crafts hall, while her wedding cake is in the Culinary Arts hall, and her tiara (along with other pageant winner tiaras) is on display in the Collections hall.  I couldn't help but think that this felt a little flaunt-y... as though the masses were being gifted this glimpse into the life of the ultra-prestigious.  Much congratulations and happy wishes for the newlywed couple, but the extents of the wedding's display throughout the fair seemed odd.

Here's an extensive gallery of other competition entry items that caught my eye--and it's only the tip of the iceberg that comprises the abundance of entries submitted!  If there's one thing that should be apparent, it's that there are a lot of talented people of all sorts of artistic types and gardening skills around town!

Product Halls

Right across from the Main Mall competition halls are the Carnival of Products, the Parade of Products, and the Festival of Products.  Basically, these three halls form a commercial expo filled with various vendors of all types trying to sell their wares.  It's a swap meet, in essence.  From private sellers hawking home-made goods to gadget wielders offering items that might be "As Seen On TV" to name brand retailers looking for ways to directly market, this space is catered toward guests looking to make some shopping deals--or at least transactions they perceive as deals.

Farm and Livestock

As you may have guessed from the listing of the OC Fair "lands" at the beginning of this update, the Fair actually has two areas where guests can encounter farm animals and farm crops.  The first is the Livestock section, right off the yellow gate.  This is the larger of the two areas, devoted exclusively to livestock and livestock competitions, including the famous Alaskan Racing Pigs.  In addition, local schools are on hand to showcase their animals in traditional country fair style competitions for various breeds.  

Over in Centennial Farm, additional livestock can be found in the form of typical farm animals, like cattle, pigs, sheep, goats, and chicken.  The Farm also has an extensive agriculture field with plenty of vegetable and fruit crops on display for educational purposes.  If ever there was to be unleashing of the inner farmer, this would be the place!

Fair Food

No visit to the fair is complete without gorging in absolutely terrible food with probably negative nutritional value and high gastronomical risk.  At the fair, food stands are everywhere, and if they're not serving up something deep friend, they're serving up something with an overload of sugar.  And if you're lucky, you might find the stand that has both!  Here are some of the more notable food stands that caught my eye, along with some of the unique dishes being offered this year!

Rides and Games

Of course, the other synonymous feature of the Orange County Fair (and any fair) is the carnival attractions.  Similar to the livestock, this can be found in two areas: Family Fairway, which features more kid- and family-friendly attractions, and Carnival, which has the high octane thrill rides more engineered for teenagers and young adults.  

The rides this year largely mirror those from last year, although I don't quite recall seeing Zamperla Endeavour last year.  Tickets can be purchased from booths located across both the Family Fairway and Carnival areas.  One ticket is $0.50, and rides effective range from a couple dollars per ride for the smaller attractions to $7 or $8 for the heavy hitters.  There are deals, though.  Early Sunday and all-day Thursday visitors can purchase a $35 unlimited attractions wristband by no later than 1pm and use it until 4pm.  Early Saturday or Sunday also features half of ride pricing if guests want to go ala carte, until 1pm.  Rides are also $2 on Fridays from noon to 4pm.  So there are definitely plenty of ways to save on the otherwise hefty cost of riding things at the Fair.

That wraps up this year's coverage of the OC Fair.  Obviously, there is a ton to do, and we didn't even get into the numerous entertainment options--from the multiple casual musical small stage performances to acrobatic and hypnotist shows to random circus roll-through performances. 

The Fair runs Wednesdays through Sundays from now until Sunday, August 12.  General admission is $14 per adult, but there are plenty of discounts available for guests to take advantage of.  The fair is a summer tradition and a cultural part of Americana.  Even in the 21st century, it offers fun and nostalgia to those who enjoy visiting.

Go check out the OC Fair today before it goes away.  If you haven't been in several years, you'll definitely find some new offerings to enjoy.  And even if you had, there are still plenty of novel attractions to experience!

Architect. Photographer. Disney nerd. Haunt enthusiast. Travel bugged. Concert fiend. Asian.