Deep-fried, family fun begins

COSTA MESA — The Orange County Fair opens Friday, bringing with it new and old traditions and celebrating the community it has brought together for 120 years.

On Thursday, excitement filled the air as vendors were busy setting up their booths and carnival workers were preparing rides. Trucks of all sizes were rolling in, carrying all that's needed to make the O.C. Fair what people have come to know and love for years.

It was like nothing had changed from years passed — no one spoke of the almost year-long talks involving plans by the state to sell the fairgrounds to the city.

Pigs, cows and all sorts of other animals were being moved into what will be their home for the next month.

But nothing can top off the food vendors, who tested their grills and fryers, sharing their deep-fried confections with everyone around.

"It's like a massive family reunion," said Sabrina Sakaguchi, fair communications coordinator, as she pointed out to each area of the fair, while driving a cart around the grounds.

Charlie Boghosian, owner of Charlie's Chicken, has been a regular at the fair since 1984. He never gets tired of new inventions.

This year's invention: a deep-fried Klondike Bar.

"For years, I wanted to deep fry ice cream," he said.

His years of trial and error have paid off — but the jury is still out on the calorie count.

"At the end of the day, the O.C. Fair is all about food, and when people come here and see our signs, they say, 'Oh my God, what are you frying now?' But then they try it and love it and that's what the fair is all about."

Boghosian said the fair has been his home so many years, that the thought of it being taken away was like someone threatening to take his home.

The state put the fairgrounds up for sale as part of a plan to sell high-valued properties and shore up funds for its ailing budget. A tentative deal to sell the fairgrounds for $96 million has been reached with Costa Mesa with the help of a real estate company that will be financing the loan.

But that was the least of Emily Lewis' concerns as the 18-year-old Future Farmers of America (FFA) student from Buena Park kept busy tending to her two pigs, feeding them, cleaning them and getting them ready for the livestock competition.

"For me, it's all about the experience," she said. "It interests me; it's just fun."

Lewis and her friend Laura Villegas, also an FFA student, who tends to a 3-month-old calf, said they love being part of the fair and love taking care of their animals.

"I'm just really excited," Villegas said.

This year, The Hangar, a new aviation-style building, will be opened for the first time since its completion in March. During the day, The Hangar will be used for multiple community events, and at night, it will be used for concerts and sporting events.

And if you want a look back — a 120-year look back — the Forever Fair Exhibit will be on display to take you on a tour through the fair's history.

Today's Events

During the first hour of the fair, noon to 1 p.m., parking and admission are free.

The Pink Floyd Experience performs at 8:15 p.m. in the Pacific Amphitheatre as part of the Los Angeles Times Summer Concert Series.

A dollar can go a long way on Fridays. Sample fair food from noon to 4 p.m., go on the rides and play the games for $1 each until 7 p.m..

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