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New shade areas may be hot attractions at L.A. County Fair

L.A. County Fair, opening Friday, adds shaded areas, air conditioning units for visitors
L.A. County Fair has invested about $500,000 to make sure visitors can find some respite from heat

The Los Angeles County Fair opens Friday with Sriracha corn dogs, ramen burgers, more than 70 carnival rides and, of course, monster trucks.

But the most welcome sight for fairgoers this year may be the 8,000 square feet of new shading, hundreds of new umbrella tables, 200 yards of overhead water misters, plus extra air conditioning units blasting cool air on indoor exhibits.

Worried that blistering end-of-summer temperatures will scare off fairgoers, the nonprofit county fair has invested about $500,000 to make sure visitors can find some respite when the mercury rises to that OMG level.

"We are not God. We can't control the weather," said Michael Chee, marketing director of the fair.

Fair attendance has declined the last two years, a setback that fair officials attribute partly to Southern California's hot and humid weather over the last few summers.

Attendance last year, at 1,438,514, was down 2% from the previous year and 3.5% from the record set in 2011.

Despite fewer visitors, the Los Angeles County Fair collected $30 million in revenue in 2013, a 3% increase over the previous year, according to the fair's annual report. Higher food and beverage sales plus increased ticket sales for concerts and carnival rides helped increase the bottom line, fair officials said.

If all goes well, Chee predicts the fair may draw about 1.6 million visitors this year.

"If the temperatures stay under the three-digit level, we should be good," he said.

In addition to 200 yards of previously installed misters, the fair is adding thousands of square feet of new shading over the expanded agricultural area, plus as many as 500 tables with umbrellas scattered throughout the fairgrounds. In addition, the fair has added more after-dark events, such as a Chinese lantern display, and put more attractions into air-conditioned buildings.

Fans of the fair say they look forward to the extra shade and air conditioning.

"Maybe this year we won't have to fight over a table in the shade," said Whittier resident Samantha Rivera, who kept cool at the fair last year with lemonade and ice cream.

Climatologists don't foresee any relief to the brutal summer heat this year.

The first six months of 2014 were the hottest ever in California, according to the National Weather Service. Temperatures were nearly 5 degrees warmer than the 20th century average and more than 1 degree hotter than the record set in 1934.

August, on average, is the hottest month of the year, but September is known for extreme heat waves, said Bill Patzert, a climatologist at Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Humidity levels have jumped in the past few days, Patzert added, setting the stage for a high misery level this September.

"Angelenos are definitely wilting this summer," he said.

The Antelope Valley Fair, in the high desert town of Lancaster, addresses the summer heat in a different way: The fairgrounds open to the public at 4 p.m. on weekdays and 2 p.m. on weekends. That fair ran from Aug. 15 to Aug. 24.

The mercury during the Antelope Valley Fair this year peaked at more than 100 degrees during the day. But fair Chief Executive Dan Jacobs said the evening temperatures dropped to a mild 70 to 74 degrees.

"We could open the fair during the day, but it's too hot," he said. "No body wants to venture out in that heat."

The Los Angeles County Fair opens at 10 a.m. on weekends and noon on weekdays, except for opening day, when doors open at 3 p.m., and Labor Day, when the fair opens at 10 a.m.

Besides the extra shading, the county fair will feature new attractions such as a burger sandwiched between ramen noodle buns, deep-fried Oreo cookies and tequila-infused pickle poppers.

The End of Summer Concert Series will include performances by Martina McBride, Heart and Neon Trees, and there will be a ground-shaking monster truck and motocross stunt show.

hugo.martin@latimes.com

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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