One minute to go until the gates open, an Orange County Fair employee told the crowd of thousands waiting to stream into the Fairgrounds Friday.
The fairgoers, looping back and forth in a long line across the pavement, were about to be the first to cross the threshold on opening day, and they were doing it for free.
Every year on the fair's first day, Victor Boatwright drives from Buena Park and braves the crowds to get in between noon and 1 p.m. when the OC Fair lets in attendees at no cost.
He's been taking advantage of the deal for about five years, he said.
Inside, fairgoers yelled "smile" while they snapped pictures of livestock, feasted on fresh grilled veggies or deep-fried decadence, and strapped themselves into carnival rides.
Boatwright first stopped to see the llamas Perdito and Victor, who flashed their off-kilter teeth from the shade of a barn in Centennial Farm.
About 27,000 people entered the fair within the first hour of opening day, OC Fair spokeswoman Robin Wachner said.
Within there first three hours, 37,408 people showed up, about 24% more than last year, according to the fair.
"It's pretty crazy out here, but it looks great," Wachner said
Outside the gates, Mike and Lee Foulds gawked at the massive line of people waiting to enter.
The couple usually attends later in the season but decided to try to get in free this year while they escaped the heat and humidity at their home in Yorba Linda.
They didn't mind waiting, and the line moved quickly.
"We love the fair," Lee Foulds said.
They were eager to see the sights, like floral exhibits at the Centennial Farm gardens, and gobble some classic fair food.
"Of course you've got to get a fried Twinkie," Mike Foulds said.
Outside of Chicken Charlie's booth, not far from the Fairgrounds entrance, there was a plethora of crispy, decadent foods to eat.
Joey Araujo, who works a nearby fair attraction, was gazing at pictures of deep-fried bacon-wrapped pickles, deep-fried cookie dough and other options depicted on the booth's red and yellow facade.
"We're going to get super fat off it," he told a coworker.
Araujo had already sampled the Krispy Kreme Sloppy Joe — a glazed doughnut filled with meat and cheese — at the San Diego County Fair.
The effects of the confection made him pass on it this time.
"I felt jittery, that's for sure," he said.
He'll have plenty of chances to try another one in the future.
The fair runs until Aug. 11 and is open from noon to midnight Wednesday through Friday and 10 a.m. to midnight Saturday and Sunday.
Generally admission is $11, $8 for seniors or $6 for kids ages 6 to 12, and those younger than 6 get in for free.
More information is available at (714) 708-1500 or ocfair.com.