Around noon on Friday, everyone and everything was at the Orange County Fair except for clouds.
Opening day for a month of agriculture, rides and adventurous street food brought out a stream of fairgoers angling to be among the first to enter the midway on a characteristically bright and toasty summer day. The windmill at the Millennium Barn was spinning in a much-appreciated breeze, and so was the line, as people moved steadily through serpentine lanes once workers rolled the gates open to a swelling cheer under the striped tent of the Blue Gate.
Before the first wave of people flooded the grounds, line wranglers herded the crowds — “We have four lines over here, guys! Four lines!” — and rides ran empty cars to warm up. A merry trio of young sisters, wearing matching goldenrod T-shirts to attract the winged residents at the butterfly pavilion, talked excitedly about the book reports they’d written as part of a promotion to get free ride tickets.
Connie Ramirez, a recreation coordinator for the Fountain Valley Unified School District, was one of 22 staff members tending to 163 elementary school children from the Cox and Gisler schools’ summer camps.
The kids, all in red camp shirts and some in Fair-branded bandannas and sunglasses, were remarkably calm after spending an hour waiting on the pavement not quite under the shade of the tent and another half-hour in buses as they navigated the parking lot.
“This is probably our 15th year coming for opening day and the kids are really looking forward to the rides and foods,” Ramirez said.
Gary and Kathy Thrasher of Glendora, both 63, made the roughly 40-mile trek to make a full day of the fair.
Although they only live about 10 miles from the Los Angeles County fairgrounds in Pomona, they said they prefer the Orange County Fair. The temperatures here are a little cooler, and they enjoy the vendors. Gary said the lines seemed to be moving faster this year, too.
The couple are here for the arts and crafts. Last year, they got some neat yard art.
They’re also intrigued by the novelty food: “Caramel-drizzled sweet fries,” Kathy said. “Sounds interesting.”
Kylie Kemp, 17, was with a squad of four friends from the water polo team at Fullerton’s Troy High School. The group decided the night before to spend a day of their summer vacation at the fair, like they did last year.
The girls, finishing each other’s sentences, said they were looking forward to deep-fried Oreos, classic rides like the Ferris wheel or the high-flying spinning swings, and the All-Alaskan Racing Pigs (last year, they rooted for a squealer named Strawberry).
Kylie likes “the food, the people the rides. Just the whole experience.”
The fair is open Wednesdays through Sundays through Aug. 12.
If You Go
What: 2018 Orange County Fair
Where: OC Fair & Event Center, 88 Fair Drive, Costa Mesa
When: July 13 to Aug. 12; noon to midnight Wednesdays through Fridays, 11 a.m. to midnight Saturdays and Sundays.
Cost: General admission is $12 Wednesdays through Fridays and $14 on weekends. Single-day tickets cost $7 for children ages 6-12 and senior citizens 60 and older. Children 5 and younger can attend for free, as can active and retired military service members with valid ID. Onsite parking is $10 for cars and $20 for buses and limousines.
Specials and discounts: Several specials and discounts are available; details are at ocfair.com/oc-fair/discounts.