THEY HAVE HORSES, DON'T THEY? : Yes'm--Aside from Midway Games and Music, Anything Equine Is Fair Game

Maresa Archer is a free-lance writer who frequently contributes to The Times Orange County.

Dancing horses, team penning and even a cattle drive along Costa Mesa's Fairview Road will be part of this year's Orange County Fair, the 102nd edition, which has the theme "Saddle Up for Fun."

Opening ceremonies on Friday (the fair continues until July 24) will include sky-diving human scarecrows. "In keeping with our theme, we tried to schedule events that are connected to horses and hay," said Jill Lloyd, fair spokeswoman. "Well, hay is straw so we thought, 'Why not sky-diving scarecrows?' They look just like the Scarecrow from the 'Wizard of Oz.' "

New to the fair this year is a 250-head cattle drive starting from Costa Mesa High School and running down Fairview Road into the fairgrounds at the Princeton Gate, then to the main arena. In addition to the cattle, the ride will include 125 horses and cowhands, a stagecoach, a wagon and a hitch of Belgian draft horses.

"It's not a long drive," said trail boss Sam Norton, who is also in charge of the team penning at the fair (Costa Mesa High School is just across the street from the fairgrounds). Still, it takes good help to handle that many people and cattle. In addition to volunteer riders, two professional cowboys will be on hand to take charge of any cattle that stray. The drive will begin at 10 a.m. on July 15.

In keeping with the Western theme, Smokey Bob Stober, a silver miner from Utah, will be at the fair daily with his two mules, Ajax and Borax, and a replica of an old prospector's cabin. "I can answer any questions people have on mining during the big gold rush and modern-day mining. And everything is authentic down to my hat and gun," he said.

New in the fine arts division this year are some 70 works by disabled artists who had assistance creating their art. "Prior to this we only allowed works that were done solely by the artists and not from a class or therapy assignment," said Judy Meyer, the fair's fine arts director. "But we had so many people who approached us to include these artists that we created a new category to accommodate them."

Because this year's theme is about horses, the rodeo will be expanded to four days, running from July 21 to 24.

For visitors who want an even splashier attraction, the U.S. High Diving Team Stage and Stunt Show will perform daily. The show will include a 100-foot high dive and a human torch dive.

There will also be the usual fare--a midway, exhibitions, contests and all manner of food on a stick--which last year drew more than 670,000 people over the fair's 17 days.

And for daredevils, there's the new bungee-jumping ride. The Ejection Seat operates on the same principal as bungee-jumping, the twist being that people are catapulted 125 feet up into the air before descending and bouncing (repeatedly, it should be noted) on the cord. The price for a single ride is $50 per person, $30 for a couple. There is no age requirement, but riders must be at least 48 inches tall.

The fair will culminate with a Fiesta Day on July 24, featuring 11 hours of Latino entertainment, including performances by five Mariachi bands.

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What: The Orange County Fair.

When: Friday, July 8, through July 24. Hours: noon to midnight Monday through Wednesday, 10 a.m. to midnight Thursday through Sunday.

Where: Costa Mesa Fairgrounds, 88 Fair Drive, Costa Mesa.

Whereabouts: Take the Newport (55) Freeway south, exit at Del Mar. Turn right on Fair Drive to Main Gate. (Alternate routes: Take either the Fairview Road or Harbor Boulevard exit off the San Diego (405) Freeway and travel south to Fair Drive. Turn left to the Main Gate.)

Wherewithal: General admission is $5 Monday through Friday, $6 Saturday and Sunday; daily admission for seniors (65 and up) is $3, $2 for children ages 6 to 12, children under 6 admitted free. Parking is $3, but car pools of four or more park free.

Where to call: (714) 708-3247.

Fair Fare

An average night at the Orange County Fair for a family of four, with one child under age 6, will cost more than $60:

Admission Two adults: $10 ($12 weekend) One child, 6-12: 2 One child under 6: Free (total): $12-$14

Dinner Two hot dogs: $3 Two hamburgers: 4.50 Four bags of fries: 6 Four small drinks: 4 (total): $17.50

Midway rides Three rides: $6 (based on average cost of $2 each, excluding Ejection Seat) (total): $24

Midway games Three games: $2.25 (based on average cost of 75 cents per game) (total): $9

Miscellaneous Stage entertainment: Free Parking: Free for car pools (4 or more) OVERALL COST: $62.50 weekday; $64.50 weekend

CUTTING COSTS Coupons for admission discounts are available at some local stores, and those 12 and younger are admitted free on Thursdays. All ages unlimited access to rides is $11 Monday through Wednesday, noon to 7 p.m.; $15 on Sunday from 10 a.m. to midnight.

Inside the Fairgrounds / Schedule of Events PACIFIC AMPHITHEATRE CONCERTS (All shows begin at 8 p.m.) Friday, July 8: Pointer Sisters. Saturday, July 9: Three Dog Night. Sunday, July 10: Queen Latifah. Monday, July 11: Michael McDonald. Tuesday, July 12: "Oldies But Goodies" night featuring Ben E. King and the Shirelles. Wednesday, July 13: Restless Heart. July 14: Loverboy. July 15: Neville Brothers. July 16: Jazz night with John Tesh and Tom Scott. July 17: Comedy night with Kevin Nealon, Steve McGrew and Steve Kelley. July 18: Kentucky Headhunters. July 19: Wailing Souls. July 20: Tim McGraw. July 21: Marshall Tucker Band. July 22: Crystal Gayle. July 23: Jan and Dean. July 24: Vikki Carr.

COORS LIGHT ARENA SHOWS

Friday, July 8: * Speedway Racing at 8 p.m.

Saturday, July 9: * Three-Quarter Midget Car Races at 8 p.m.

Sunday, July 10: * Championship Car Hopping and Bed Dancing at 2 p.m. * Speedway (Sidecar and Quad) Racing at 8 p.m.

Monday, July 11, through July 14: * Magical World of Dancing Horses at 1 and 6 p.m.

July 15 through 17: * Magical World of Dancing Horses at 6 p.m.

July 16 and 17: * World Championship Team Penning, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

July 18 through 20: * Magical World of Dancing Horses at 1 and 6 p.m.

July 21: * Flying 'U' Championship Rodeo at 8 p.m.

July 22: * Flying 'U' Championship Rodeo at 8 p.m.

July 23: * Flying 'U' Championship Rodeo at 4 and 8 p.m.

July 24: * Flying 'U' Championship Rodeo with a salute to Mexico at 4 p.m.

SENIOR DAYS EVENTS

July 14:

* Seniors' Pie-Eating Contest at 11 a.m.

* Senior and Youth Straw Hat Parade at noon.

* Golden Wedding Ceremony at 1 p.m.

* Western Line Dancing at 2 p.m.

* Free merry-go-round and Ferris wheel rides all day.

July 21:

* Seniors' Pie-Eating Contest at 11 a.m.

* Grandparent and Grandchild Look-Alike Contest at noon.

* Record Holders' Contest at 1 p.m.

* Seniors' Bingo Competition at 2 p.m.

* Free merry-go-round and Ferris wheel rides all day.

KIDS' DAYS EVENTS

July 14 and 21 (all events both days):

* Little Tumble Weed Competition at noon.

* Round 'Em Up Cowboy at 1 p.m.

* Water Balloon Toss at 2 p.m.

* Pinto Bean Express at 3 p.m.

* Kids' Pie-Eating Contest at 4 p.m.

* Pony Dance Contest at 5 p.m.

* All carnival rides are 75 cents each for children of all ages until 7 p.m.

Source: Orange County Fair

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