Across from an onion ring stand and around the corner from a turkey leg grill, against a red barn door and under a classically decorated canopy and the soulful eyes of an ox wearing a bowtie, Leslie Leong became Leslie Nguyen.
The former Ms. Leong married her longtime friend and love Michael Nguyen Saturday at the Orange County Fair in a quirky, warm ceremony at the Millennium Barn offered as the prize in the fair’s first “Love is in the Fair” wedding giveaway.
As promised, barnyard animals and circus performers were among the witnesses: Patches the black and white American lineback ox, a well-known OC Fair figure who is always wearing a velvety tuxedo; a pair of donkeys; stilt walkers in stunning Cirque du Soleil-style makeup operating mechanical flamingo beaks atop their towering pink legs; a brass band playing Dixieland jazz and the wedding march; costumed fair mascots; and not one but three clowns with a rubber-bulb bike horn to honk in celebration. Passersby were invited to watch the nuptials, too.
The newlyweds said their family is more traditional than they, but that their friends agree this is fitting.
Leslie, 31, a nursing student at Cypress College, and Michael, 33, a behavioral analyst who works with autistic children, met 17 years ago in a music chat room on the pre-social media internet. When they started dating as adults in 2015, he took her to the OC Fair “because I wanted you to think I could do normal things,” he told Leslie in their exchange of vows they wrote themselves.
They like to camp, see national parks, and, with Michael’s love of speculative fiction, stay in haunted hotels, attend comic book conventions and hunt for aliens and Bigfoot.
“Now we’re back at the fair for the craziest and most extraordinary thing we’ve ever done,” he said.
“Leslie, for the rest my life and whatever comes next, whether it be on this planet or elsewhere in space, the one constant we can rely on is that I love you.”
Leslie said Michael is “probably the strangest person that I’ve ever known,” and she loves him for it.
“I promise to laugh with you, care for you and continue to grow with you,” she said.
The brief ceremony ended with applause and a shower of bubbles from the audience. And Tadpole the clown poured the champagne for the first toast.