JWA exhibit gives fliers insight into the OC Fair

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Polynesian dancers, traveling clowns, baby chicks and Olivia the Orange helped herald Wednesday’s opening of a new exhibit at John Wayne Airport that delves into the Orange County Fair’s 125 years of history.

The photos and information of “Fair Play,” which runs through Dec. 2, are within 31 cases throughout the airport’s Vi Smith Concourse Gallery.

Ray Cammack Shows, which runs the fair carnival, and Capri Show of Fullerton lent objects for the exhibit.


Orange County Center for Contemporary Art Executive Director Stephen Anderson and Bolton Colburn, a former director of the Laguna Art Museum, curated the show, which includes topics like the fair’s rides and competitions, as well as Centennial Farm.

The duo noted the fair’s storied history and how the first fair, in 1890, came only one year after Orange County itself was created.

“We were pretty overwhelmed with the history of the OC Fair and Event Center,” Colburn said.

Michele Richards, the fairgrounds’ chief business development officer, noted that creating the exhibit was JWA’s idea. Once approved, “It was a labor of love, I know, for the staff,” she said.

A few feet in front of the group were Lola, a California rabbit, and a boxful of chirping baby chicks — all from Centennial Farm and available for gentle petting.

The ceremony took place as JWA passengers walked around the terminal and near the giant statue of John Wayne. Olivia the Orange, one of the “fair foodie” mascots, wandered about and greeted passersby, as did Tadpole and Katie, a pair of traveling clowns who regularly perform at the fair.

Fairgrounds officials noted that “Fair Play” is in a secured area of JWA, accessible only by arriving and departing passengers with a ticket.

This sparked a remark from fair board Director Gerardo Mouet, who said, “I’m gonna have to buy a ticket just to go and see it.”

The 125th annual fair, themed this year as “One Big Party,” begins Friday and ends Aug. 16.