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There’s something for everyone as the O.C. fairgrounds hosts Japan Fair, pumpkin patch

Jandy Ponvanit, 9, attempts to retrieve a Japanese capsule toy at the OC Japan Fair at OC Fair & Event Center.
Jandy Ponvanit, 9, attempts to retrieve a Japanese capsule toy during the opening night of the OC Japan Fair at OC Fair & Event Center on Friday.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

A destination for family-friendly entertainment and activities, not only during the Orange County Fair but all year round, Costa Mesa’s O.C. fairgrounds has been a busy scene this weekend, hosting two events that offer a little something for everyone.

Friday evening saw the return of the OC Japan Fair, a three-day celebration that intends to introduce local residents to the customs, cultures and traditions of the “Land of the Rising Sun.”

Masataka Taguchi, a Huntington Beach event coordinator, organized the festival in 2009 as a means of blending the longstanding traditions and art forms of his own native culture — including Japanese flower arranging, or ikebana, and live kimono models — with modern trends quickly gaining traction among younger generations.

“This is about having an opportunity to promote Japanese food and culture,” said Taguchi, who moved to the United States from Hyogo Prefecture, near the city of Osaka, in 1998.

Vince Nguyen takes photos of barbecue squid and short ribs.
Vince Nguyen takes photos of barbecue squid and short ribs during the opening night of the OC Japan Fair at OC Fair & Event Center on Friday.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

As such, the fair features taiko drum performances, tea ceremonies and sake tastings as well as events centered around animation and cosplay. With a theme of “The Skills of Japan,” this year’s celebration showcases more than 100 vendors and presenters highlighting the best in Japanese food, culture, music, technological innovations and art.

The event began as a one-day celebration, but attendance soon swelled to a point where organizers felt they could expand into a weekend-long format.

Alex Yao prepares his booth for customers during the opening night of the OC Japan Fair  on Friday.
Alex Yao prepares his booth for customers during the opening night of the OC Japan Fair at OC Fair & Event Center on Friday.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

“Every year, it’s getting bigger and bigger and more popular,” Taguchi said. “Since 2015 it’s also been a nighttime event, where more young people come. But we also focus on families with kids.”

OC Japan Fair continues Sunday, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the O.C. fairground’s Los Alamitos Building and Lot I. Admission is $10, or free for children age 6 and under as well as seniors over 65. On-site parking costs $10. For more, visit oc-japanfair.com.

Asahi Haga, 7, left, and Eri Nakamura, 7, explore Seasonal Adventures on Friday at the O.C. fairgrounds.
Asahi Haga, 7, left, and Eri Nakamura, 7, both of Irvine run around as they explore Seasonal Adventures on Friday at the O.C. fairgrounds in Costa Mesa.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

Fall fun and adventure for youngsters

This weekend also brought locals a little taste of fall fun, as the annual “Seasonal Adventures Pumpkin Patch” continued into its second week with gourds galore, mechanical rides and inflatable slides, mazes and obstacle courses geared for families and young children.

Organizer Rob Lambert said the event debuted at the fairgrounds in 2019 but was canceled last year due to the pandemic. Now, Seasonal Adventures is back and much bigger than before.

“We’ve made the lot twice as big — we added a train, an inflatable corn maze and a haunted slide,” he said Friday, adding that this year’s attendance has already outpaced 2019 by about 200%.

Zoe McClain and her sister, Keilani enjoy a ride during Seasonal Adventures at the O.C. fairgrounds.
Zoe McClain, 4, left, and her sister, Keilani, 2, of Long Beach spin in circles as they enjoy a ride during Seasonal Adventures on Friday at the O.C. fairgrounds in Costa Mesa.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

With a host of kid-centered activities, including a petting zoo with goats, pigs, chickens and rabbits, the feel of the attraction is not so much frightening as it is friendly.

“We really cater to the little kids,” Lambert said. “We try to make it a fun and safe family event, where everything is happy and positive.”

Seasonal Adventures Pumpkin Patch runs through Oct. 31 on Lot C. It is open Monday through Thursdays, from 3 to 9 p.m., Fridays from 3 to 10 p.m. and on the weekends from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Admission is free, with tickets for individual attractions available for purchase. Parking costs $10. For more, visit seasonaladventures.com.

Visitors take a train ride during Seasonal Adventures on Friday at the O.C. fairgrounds in Costa Mesa.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

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