Big Wheels at O.C. Fair


If you missed the millennium celebration in Paris, you can still experience La Grande Wheel--without going any furtherfarther than the Orange County Fair. The ornate, 15-story Ferris wheel, a replica of the prominent fixture erected between the Louvre and Champs Elysees in honor of the dawning of a new century, will be among the new attractions at the 109th annual fair, opening Friday.

Another European attraction making its Southern California debut is the eight-lane, 200-foot Euroslide. A conveyor system replaces the steep stair climb, so making the trek up the slide doesn't exhaust riders before they get a chance to slide come down the slide.

The "I Love Lucy 50th Anniversary Tour" might offer an enticing attraction for baby boomers. The exhibit, which will cost fairgoers an additional $3, features Lucille Ball in photos and video clips from her radio and TV show. Sets, costumes and props from "I Love Lucy" fill much of the giant four-room tent, which includes a number of interactive sets.

Fairgoers can re-create some of Lucy's classic scenes, stamping grapes, wrapping chocolates in a candy factory and attempting the tongue-twisting Vitameatavegemin commercial. Several glass cases hold Lucille Ball's personal memorabilia.

"We did this with the cooperation of her family;, they were very helpful," said Lisa Davis, executive producer of the exhibit, which debuted in Milwaukee in June. "This is the first opportunity to take it to the fans."

Another new fair attraction will be the Orange Crush, a demolition derby debuting July 21 and featuring about 30 drivers ages 16 and older competing for $4,500 in prizes.

Headline entertainment runs the gamut this year, from En Vogue to the Village People.

In honor of the fair's theme, "Twist & Shout: Celebrate Citrus and Sun," the twist king himself, Chubby Checker, will kick off the concert lineup on opening day. Twist aficionados may sign up for the twist contests, open to all ages nightly at 6:30 p.m. on the Heritage Stage. For the culinarily inclined, celebrity chefs Tommy Tang and the Galloping Gourmet, Graham Kerr, will whip up some specialties (July 26 and 19, respectively). Daily fair attractions include the typical carnival and midway, livestock competitions and home arts exhibits, along with Alaskan racing pigs, two petting zoos and Doggies of the Wild West, a western-themed comedy act with performing pooches.

Acknowledging Orange County's agricultural history, an exhibit of fruit and farm equipment will fill the Millennium Barn, where milking demonstrations will be held at 3 p.m. daily. Contests geared to all ages will take place on the Kids Stage, ranging from orange juice drinking (July 19) to Jell-O tossing (July 21) to lemon pie eating (July 29).

* Orange County Fair, 88 Fair Drive, Costa Mesa, Friday-July 29. On Fridays, children 12 and younger get in free; Mondays ages 13-17 get in for $5, and unlimited ride passes are $20 for all ages. Thursdays are senior days, offering $4 admission to ages 55 and older. Fair hours: Mondays-Wednesdays, noon-midnight; Thursdays-Sundays 10 a.m.-midnight. Admission: $7; $6, seniors; $3, ages 6-12; parking $5. Information: (714) 708-3247 or .

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