First-day visitors to Orange County Fair find a lot to like

Some visitors to Friday's opening of the Orange County Fair had made their plans to attend months in advance, while others chose to go in a more spontaneous fashion.

Take Matthew Casey and his daughter Piper. The Yucaipa residents saw a news report about the fair Friday morning and adjusted their plans for a beach day to include a stop at the OC Fair & Event Center in Costa Mesa.


"We found out it was free [between noon and 3 p.m.], so we wanted to go in and check it out," said Matthew Casey, 61.

Piper, 14, said she was excited to see the animals, such as the cows.

"We're not big riders, so we'll walk around and get something to eat," Matthew said.

The 127th edition of the fair features an area with animals such as steers and goats, plus a medley of dining options and rides.

The fair opened at noon, but visitors like Huntington Beach resident Colleen Emerson arrived at 7:30 a.m to claim a spot at the front of the line at the main entrance off Fair Drive.

Some people waiting to get in sat in lawn chairs they brought with them.

Emerson said she has been going to the fair for 25 years and was looking forward to the cooking demonstrations and photo galleries.

Her husband, David Koning, said: "I have fun being with her. She's fun to watch, expressive when she gets excited."

When asked if he had his eyes on any particular culinary concoction, Koning said, "We try to find something unique to the fair, like deep-fried butter [during a previous fair]."

Among the attractions this year is a new ride called Endeavour, which looks like a giant spinning wheel.

Passengers entered their seats while the wheel was parallel to the ground. Once the wheel started moving at increasing speeds, it tilted until it reached nearly a 90-degree angle.

"That was awesome," Mission Viejo resident Gabrielle Girard said with a large grin as the ride came to a stop.

"My favorite part was when it went upside down," said Gabrielle, 10. "It goes really fast."

Meanwhile, in the livestock area, students from Sunny Hills High School in Fullerton watched over rabbits, ready for any questions from passersby.

Sixteen students from Sunny Hills' Future Farmers of America program will rotate shifts and oversee 48 rabbits contained in cages, said Linda Arredondo, an incoming senior.

"The No. 1 thing is water," said Linda, 16. "You don't want them to overheat. Rabbits are really sensitive to heat."

Many of the rabbits slept. A few snuggled against one another.

"People mostly like them and want to pet them," Linda said. "Sometimes they ask, 'Are you selling them?' That's when we tell them about the [junior livestock] auction."

Orange County 4-H and FFA members will auction their award-winning swine, calves, goats, rabbits, lambs, turkeys and other animals to raise funds for future educational endeavors, according to the fair's website.

When the students aren't on a shift, they can see the fair's other animals, shows and attractions, which is a bonus, said Leslie Yang, 17, who was helping Linda oversee the rabbits.

"We work hard and then we can play during the time off," Leslie said.


What: Orange County Fair

Where: OC Fair & Event Center, 88 Fair Drive, Costa Mesa

When: Through Aug. 13

Hours: Noon to midnight Wednesdays through Fridays; 11 a.m. to midnight Saturdays and Sundays

Cost: General admission: $12 Wednesdays through Fridays and $14 Saturdays and Sundays. Senior citizens 60 and older and children ages 6 to 12: $7 daily. Parking: $10 for cars, $20 for buses and limousines.


Twitter: @AldertonBryce