Sounding Off: It was a fair to remember

Yes, kudos to Orange County Fair & Event Center President and Chief Executive Steve Beazley and his "Team" for a job well done at this year's O.C. Fair ("Community Commentary: Vibe at this year's fair is best yet," Aug. 13). Not having attended the fair in over five years — and that was simply an in-and-out visit to see the B-52s perform at the Pacific Amphitheater — I must confess that I spent several hours one day walking around the fairgrounds and attending the night's musical concert.

I had a really fun time and came away very impressed with the efficient and friendly staff, and the clean and orderly way in which everything was being run.

Always professing in the past that I'm "just not a fair kinda gal," I was blindsided by a friend this year who didn't tell me that we were going to the fair until we were in the car and on the way there. I was only told to dress for cool weather and wear comfortable shoes for our outing.

Turns out the evening was initially planned around tickets for another concert by young country talent LeeAnn Rimes (who put on a great show for the enthusiastic crowd of fans), but ended up evolving into a much more interesting and entertaining evening about the midway games and rides and unusual food offerings.

Because my daughter is out of town this week visiting grandparents and I am on mom-cation, my friend knew that I was free from other responsibilities and suggested we leave early in the afternoon, so we arrived at the fair well before dinnertime and had lots of time to walk around and take in the sights and sounds of the midway before the concert. The midway turned out to be quite an overload to the senses, but I persevered.

The rides have come a long way since I went to the small carnival that came to my small, rural town in the southeast every summer when I was a child. The scariest one that I ever rode was the swings hanging from chains that twirled around (all in the same direction) and caused a nice cooling breeze on a hot summer night.

The rides have exciting names like the Zipper and the Cyclone and twist and turn and spin and drop in all kinds of directions at amazing speeds. I could not even watch them for an extended period of time, much less ride on them, without feeling dizzy and queasy with my empty stomach, but folks were standing in long lines to ride them all and disembarked from them with smiles on their faces as they marched to stand in line at the next one. Those definitely aren't for me, but I was glad to see everyone else having such a fun time.

The selection of games sandwiched between the rides, ranging from the old-fashioned ring toss to the shoot-the-target variety, all played in hopes of winning a giant stuffed toy, do not seem to have changed much over the years. I think the odds of winning the prizes must have improved, though, because we saw lots of people walking around carrying the over-sized teddy bears and giant bananas that were so large that they wouldn't even fit into the entire frame of the photo taken of me standing next to one. Who would want to win one of those anyway and have to tote it around all day?!

Our senses next turned to the smells coming from the various food stalls as it neared dinnertime. After checking out each offering closely, including the $24 cheeseburger that was the size of a dinner plate and could feed a family of five, we settled on one of the many BBQ vendors and had a very tasty pulled pork sandwich and nothing more, as we wanted to save room to sample some of the interesting dessert options.

We passed on the chocolate-covered bacon and deep-fried Snickers bars and went with the old standard funnel cake, thinking it must surely have fewer calories than the others. I haven't had one in years and it was sinfully delicious, my fair-going friend commenting that he was glad that his fingers were not in my way as we shared the delectable dessert, as he was sure I might have surely eaten one of them in my food-eating frenzy.

After feasting on fair food, we casually strolled past the craft booths on our way to watch the concert. Many interesting ideas were being offered as souvenirs of the trip to the fair, but our favorite was the one that let you put on a sleeve of hot wax, which you then pulled off to make an impression of your hand. It could be dipped in a dye color of your choice and molded before hardening into holding something like a flower or bent to make a gesture of your liking.

Very unique, but we passed on that as well, and made our way to the music venue and topped of the evening singing and dancing along with LeeAnn Rimes.

I didn't want to have to carry around a large stuffed banana toy or a wax replica of my hand, but I still had a great experience and a very memorable visit to the O.C. Fair. I guess I won't wait another six years before I come back again now. A big wax hand of applause for the "Team" at the fair for keeping it going for all to enjoy.

KELLY KNIGHT lives in Newport Beach.

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