At the L.A. County Fair, eat the fried Klondike Bar — and see how it affects you
This may be the 88th year that Angelenos have enjoyed the Los Angeles County Fair, but it may be the first year one can eat a ton of deep-fried novelties, work it off dancing to live music and finally see how that whole process happens in a display of real human cadavers. Adding a lot of science and a little bit of sideshow freakiness to the festival atmosphere, the exhibit “Our Bodies: The Universe Within” is making its first, non-museum debut at the fair this year.
Opening Saturday and running until Oct. 3, the L.A. event is the biggest county fair in the nation, with an average attendance of 1.3 million people for each of the last five years.
The annual fair started as an agricultural harvest festival and has gradually transformed into a temporary village of entertainment, food and sometimes unlikely diversions.
The “Our Body: The Universe Within” exhibit has drawn raves, howls and possibly existential crises since it debuted in museums in 2006. For an additional $7 fee (or $5 if purchased online), visitors can see real human bodies on display, some with skin removed and organs revealed, preserved by a special process called polymer impregnation, or “plastination,” in which fat and liquid are turned into a plastic.
“We just felt that the ‘Our Bodies’ exhibit added a whole new layer of entertainment and education to our fair,” said the fair’s marketing communications director, Michelle DeMott.
“It might bring in a fair crowd that came just to see the exhibit, that might not have come to the fair otherwise,” she added.
Also new this year are a carnival midway that offers 70 rides and 40 games; a traveling circus that has elephants, fire breathers and sword swallowers and an interactive “jungle” with animals on display; a pirate show; and many other kid-friendly attractions.
For adults, the horse races at Fairplex Park are a big draw.
Trevor Denman has been the announcer for the horse races at the L.A. County Fair for more than 20 years. He finds that Fairplex Park races attract a relaxed audience more interested in the fair than the technicalities of the races.
“They might be a little less knowledgeable,” Denman said, “but being less knowledgeable, they have more fun. They’re not into it like the hard-core gamblers.”
He said that the safest bet for novice gamblers is to put money on the more experienced riders such as Martin Pedroza, who was inducted into the 2009 Fairplex Park Hall of Fame.
For many visitors, however, the highlight of the fair is racing to the stands selling greasy deep-fried food.
One of Chicken Charlie’s most popular dishes, for example, is deep-fried Oreos — a dish of soft, warm cookies covered in a thin, crispy layer of pancake batter.
“The way I fry it, you can still taste the cream,” said Charles Boghosian, a.k.a. Chicken Charlie. He calls the L.A. County Fair his best fair of the year. “The people love to eat.”
Boghosian is among the top-five-selling food vendors at the fair and a trailblazer in the fried-food market. He’s made a name for himself by adding a new, unlikely item to his fried-food menu every year. “There’s a process I have to go through, before I put [a new item] on the menu,” he said.
At his home test-kitchen, he said he throws parties at which guests try his experimental items and vote on their favorite. This year’s winner is the fried Klondike bar.
Boghosian’s friend and fellow concession owner Ted Platis, however, skips the deep fryer in favor of the Chicken Charlie’s chicken. The owner of the Greek Gourmet concession stand, Platis and his mother first brought their gyros and baklava to the Pomona fairgrounds in 1976, standing out as the slightly more exotic and lighter stand, at least by county fair standards.
“I’m the only stand out there that has vegetable oil,” Platis said.
Many of his menu items, such as Greek salad, baklava and spanakopita, are vegetarian. The only thing he fries is falafel. At the 2010 Orange County Fair, he won an award for the healthiest stand.
Despite his healthy menu, Platis does sometimes steal some of Boghosian’s Twinkies, but only ones that haven’t been touched by the fryer.
“He knows I hate the fact that he fries everything,” Platis said.
Los Angeles County Fair
Where: Pomona Fairplex, 1101 W. McKinley Ave., Pomona
When: Open Labor Day weekend, closed subsequent Mondays and Tuesdays. Mon. (Labor Day Weekend) 10 a.m.-10 p.m.; Sun. (Labor Day Weekend) 10 a.m.-midnight; Wed. noon-10 p.m.; Thurs. noon-11 p.m.; Fri. noon-midnight; Sat. 10 a.m.-midnight; Sun. 10 a.m.-10 p.m.
Price: $17 weekends, $12 weekdays; children 6-12, $12 weekends, $7 weekdays. Many special package deals and passes available. $10 parking.
Contact: (909) 623-3111, https://www.lacountyfair.com/2010/