Comments & Curiosities: Ow, my arteries!

Remember 1890? Me neither. But that's how long the Orange County Fair has been around: 120 years.

On Friday morning, the gates at the fairgrounds were thrown open once again and the first of a bazillion visitors rushed inside — not knowing where to turn, what to do or what to eat first — just wanting to have fun. They needn't worry. It's all there — exhibits with every type of thing in the universe, animal, vegetable and mineral, and a few things that don't fit any of those.

There are big-name performers, like ZZ Top and Faith Hill, and free performances by people you've never heard, playing instruments you've never seen before. I used to try to run down the entire fair schedule for you, but it's impossible, especially with the fair now running four weeks instead of three.

But if you remember nothing else, remember this. The only valid reason to have an Orange County Fair in my opinion — the All Alaskan Racing Pigs — are back, pinker and porkier than ever. Is there anything more fulfilling than watching six little pigs in their own little numbered vests run like the wind, sort of, with a frenzied crowd cheering them on? If there is, I am not aware of it.

By the way, the little porkers really do make their home in Sarah-land, at the Alaska State Fairgrounds outside Anchorage. It's a long, long way from Alaska to Orange County, but a pig's gotta do what a pig's gotta do.

Who's hungry? If your primary care physician has warned you that your health has been a little too stable lately, a few hours at the Fair can fix that. There are literally hundreds of choices, including every BBQ and Mexican item you've ever heard of, not to mention the bacon-wrapped hot dog, the 1/3-pound cheeseburger and the 1/2-pound "Monster Hot Dog," none of which are big with vegans. Shall we do the math on a 1/2-pound hot dog? Why not.

The standard package of eight hot dogs you're used to seeing weighs 1 pound, which means a 1/2-pound hot dog is the equivalent of four of the hot dogs in that package nestled in a bun that is roughly the size of your pillow. For sides, you could go with the Australian battered potatoes, jumbo fries, chili fries, chili cheese fries and just plain cheese fries if you're watching your diet.

If you still need a little something, you could try the apple fries Mexican funnel cake, cinnamon sugar and marshmallow yammies, cheesecake on a stick, and the most inexplicable of all — pizza on a stick. Is pizza not easy enough to eat without being on a stick? How does that work exactly?

If you are very, very brave and your affairs are in order, you should proceed directly to the deep-fried onions, deep-fried Oreos, deep-fried Twinkies, and the cardiologists' "All-Time/All-Universe-People-Really-Eat-That?" Award for three years running — deep-fried Snickers. Yes, it's true. It's a frozen Snickers bar dipped in batter, deep-fried, then sprinkled with powdered sugar because, as you know, a Snickers bar is not quite sweet enough. You'll can also visit the food stand that deserves the Truth-in-Advertising award, hands down — "The Heart Attack Café" — where you'll have to decide between chocolate-covered bacon, deep-fried butter, "The Triple Bypass" (deep-fried cheese crisps) and "The Big One" (deep-fried cinnamon crisps.)

Speaking of food, if you can call deep-fried butter food, I checked out the Farm & Garden competition this year, you know, "Biggest Zucchini in the Cosmos," "Beets that Look Like Famous People," that sort of thing. It's very complicated. There is an Adult Division and a Youth Division for fruits and vegetables. The Adult Division entries are judged under the "American Judging System" but the Youth Division entries are judged under the "Danish Judging System" — like we didn't know that. How can you judge an adult's nectarine with the same system you use for a kid's? That would be crazy.

There are separate competitions for fruits and veggies, each with a boatload a divisions and classes for every fruit and vegetable you've ever heard of, except for "Garden Peas," which compete in a "Special Category" all by themselves, which is lost on me. Peas can go at it in Class 01: "Longest Pod"; Class 02: "Shortest Pod" or Class 03: "Most Unusually Shaped Pod," which I assume is for people who show up with a pod that's shaped like Florida or looks like Cheech Marin.

At Centennial Farm, it's animals everywhere you look and lots of teaching moments about the grow biz for small and large people alike. That laughter and those recurring shrieks of terror you hear are coming from the Carnival, where the unlimited-ride $25 ticket is the best deal in town for people who like to be tossed, twisted, flipped and subjected to G-forces that you normally have to be on a NASA mission to experience.

Here's what I recommend. Wolf down a bacon-wrapped hot dog, some chili cheese fries and a large Diet Coke, then ride the "Tango" — a towering steel contraption that looks like one of the invaders from "War of the Worlds." They strap you into a harness on one of three steel arms that form a huge whirly-gig. It starts spinning at ground level but slowly rises until it's fully vertical at what must seem like the edge of outer space when you're hanging upside down with the harness the only thing that is keeping you from your ancestors. It's fun.

The theme this year is pretty clever — "The Beat Goes On." Get it? Despite all the turmoil of the fairgrounds' being sold, or not, the fair goes on. I think that's it — Faith Hill, deep-fried butter, pizza on a stick and pigs in vests. Can you find all that anywhere else on the planet? I seriously doubt it. I gotta go.

PETER BUFFA is a former Costa Mesa mayor. His column runs Sundays. He may be reached at

Copyright © 2019, Daily Pilot
EDITION: California | U.S. & World