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County Fair Heating Up : Crowds Grow as Mercury Tops 100; Favorite Spot Is Anywhere in the Shade

Times Staff Writer

It was 103 in the shade Friday as Marie Salhoff staked out a spot in the shadow of an ice cream stand at the Los Angeles County Fair and showed that she can take a licking and keep on kicking.

“It’s too hot for me,” said the Ontario resident, holding an empty soft drink cup under her melting vanilla cone to catch the drips. “It’s so hot I’ll probably have to have another two or three cones just to get through the day.”

After nearly a week of autumn-like weather and rain showers that kept crowds disappointingly low at the Pomona fairgrounds, temperatures--and attendance--was starting to soar by Friday.

“More people come out when it’s warm,” said Marcy Wright, a spokeswoman for the fair who put Thursday’s tally at 41,907. Friday’s attendance figures were not immediately available, but fair officials were clearly pleased with the turnout.

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Many adults who ventured out Friday headed for newly air-conditioned exhibit halls where displays of lounge chairs and food choppers drew big crowds.

Children rushed for the midway where they lined up at Capt. Dan’s Bumper Boats to splash around in motorized inner tubes in a circular pond holding 200 bathtubs worth of water.

“The water is so cold!” said a dripping Bertha Nava, 12, of Compton after her four-minute boat ride ended. “I’m totally soaked, but it’s so hot out here that I’ll be dry in 10 minutes. Then I’ll ride it again.”

Ride operator Ben Ross of Spokane, Wash., grinned from beneath a large beach umbrella that shaded him. “Yes sir, we’ll be busy today. It’s been so cloudy until now. There just haven’t been the crowds.”

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On the other side of the 487-acre fairgrounds, fortuneteller Laura Ronzo sat in her brightly colored tent in front of a window air conditioner she had propped atop a milk crate. She was also predicting sunny times ahead for the fair, which continues daily through Oct. 1.

‘Cooling Down Monday’

“I feel it will be really hot Saturday and Sunday, cooling down on Monday,” Ronzo said as the air conditioner blew directly in her face. “I see the crowds easing Monday, but picking up again on Wednesday.”

A few steps away from the soothsayer’s tent, Megan Kaufman sat down on a bench next to a bottled water seller’s display and heaved a sigh of relief as 3-year-old Greg Goble, the child of a friend, emptied a small cup of ice water on her head.

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“That felt good,” said Kaufman of Pacific Palisades.

Sparkletts bottled water company salesman Les Kearns laughed as the children refilled their free cups. “We’re hoping for heat, lots of heat!” he said. “On a real hot Saturday or Sunday out here we will go through 180 bottles. The last few days, we’ve only used 45 a day.”

But the idea of a hot spell was getting a cool reception from some at the fair.

Los Feliz resident Bill Heichert hooked up three large fans beneath the canopy outside the Fairplex Race Track where he was hawking Ginzu Knives.

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One fan was aimed toward where his customers would have been standing, had there been any. Another was aimed at the box of vegetables that Heichert planned to use to demonstrate how well his blades cut. The other was pointed at Heichert.

‘No One Will Stop’

“I wish I was in one of the air-conditioned buildings,” he moaned, covering up the microphone hanging around his neck so his complaint would not be broadcast over his booth’s loudspeaker. “People will stop and listen indoors.”

Claremont resident Bob Miller was doing plenty of stopping, however. During the afternoon he hit several beer booths--then sought out cool spots to stand in while he sipped his ice-cold drinks.

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“Over here, let’s get in the shade,” Miller urged wife Ann and daughter Ashley, 6, after the trio stood in the sun to have the girl’s name painted on a pink parasol.

“I’m in the shade everywhere I go,” said Ann Miller, who was deputized by Ashley to carry the umbrella for the rest of the day.


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