Compiled by Chris Woodyard, Times staff writer

Fair Weather: A county fair usually brings to mind cotton candy and carnival rides. But the Orange County Fair this summer is tackling a headier subject: rain forests.

The fair is going to create a 3,500-square-foot, virtual rain forest inside the Flower and Garden Building. Complete with 1,000 live plants, rain, thunder and fog, the rain forest environment will be the centerpiece of a "Thunder Lagoon" show that has played from Boston to Portland, Ore.

"Any time you bring an environment indoors, it's pretty dramatic, especially when you consider the realism of the rain and thunder," said project coordinator Ken Inouye. "But something like this has never been done on this magnitude in Southern California. It's a theatrical event."

Plants will range from a 24-foot rubber tree to a 15-foot bird of paradise, all surrounding an indoor lagoon. Four shows an hour will accommodate 200 to 300 people. The exhibit is so big that it will push judging on some of the fair's flower and garden events into an outdoor tent.

The fair is scheduled to run from July 7 to 23 in Costa Mesa.

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