Growing up in the Central Valley and being a member of the local 4-H club and FFA (Future Farmer’s of America), the highlight of this country girl’s summer was spending a week at the Merced County Fair. Hanging out at the pig barns and talking endlessly about the Grand Champion animals and the cowboys and catching up on all the high school gossip made up my fair experience. My mom always insisted that my sister and I join her on the last day of the fair to have lunch together, and my favorite item was always an eggroll on a stick!
Fast forward about 30 years and I’m living in Los Angeles…and every September I hear advertisements for the LA County Fair, and every year I ask myself if I really want to drive out to Pomona in the heat for this. I mean come on, it’s LA. There are no pigs and cowboys in Santa Monica, Manhattan Beach or Playa Del Rey…the areas I spend a lot of my time. I have been to Pomona, Ontario, Chino, etc. and still no pigs and cowboys. But this year after nine years residency, I decided to go. I told my husband Matt that I was going with or without him, but that it would be more fun if he joined me. After purchasing discount tickets at Ralph’s grocery store for $10 each we were off and running.
We agreed before we got in the gates that we’d spend no more than three hours at the fair. Hmmm, little did we know how much there was to see, and how much ground there was to cover. Six hours later we were walking a little slower, and not just from the crowds and the heat. The fairgrounds cover a really large property and we had circled the whole complex at least twice.
Of course the first thing we did was enjoy lunch…my first item on a stick, grilled corn! Moving into the Plaza de las Americas, something on the menu caught my eye and soon I was enjoying my second item on a stick, mango, pictured here. Equal parts messy and delicious, this healthy and refreshing treat was fun to eat. Walking by the many Hot Dog on a Stick stands, I opted for a true carnival corndog, as I can buy Hot Dog on a Stick at a big shopping mall. However, I was a little taken aback at the $6.95 price tag. Rounding out my lunch on a stick was the ever-popular frozen banana…of course dipped in chocolate and rolled in chopped nuts. Yum! However, I never did find my eggroll on a stick. Wonder if it still exists?
To cool off we meandered into not one or two, but three different Shopping Pavilions. Some things just never change. The sham-wows, chopping gadgets and flying toy helicopters were on every aisle. The Chinese acrobats performing to a standing-room only crowd were not to be missed. But the very best part of our Shopping experience was meeting Sebastian, the 10-year-old sales entrepreneur who not only gave me a soothing hand massage, but had the sales-schtick to match. Amazing! If the lotion had not been $39.95 I am sure I would have been sold…but I told the young salesman no and he took the letdown with grace.
Walking back out into the heat, we headed to the very back of the fairgrounds and enjoyed the shade provided by the trees in the area known as Momo’s Jungle. Monkeys, baby kangaroos and even vultures were to be found. Just next to the Jungle area was another favorite, the Home and Gardens exhibits where we perused all the showcases of the first, second and third place winners in table-settings, quilting, cake decorating and more.
And of course saving the best for last, we made our way to the barns in time for both the pig races and the cow milking demonstration. I smiled to myself as I saw how many people crowded the stands for these events, and really enjoyed them. We leisurely enjoyed the sheep and the goats, the baby chics, the pot-belly pigs and the farm pigs, the bunnies and the bees. It was the perfect ending to our day…I was so full from all my treats on a stick that I actually passed on the homemade ice cream. Maybe I can squeeze in another visit to the LA County Fair before October 3! Now there’s an idea…