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Get It! At the Orange County Fair

Tasti Chips Cheesy Jalapeno Chips & Ghost Chile Sauce

Only 9 more days to catch the Orange County Fair! It’s hard for me to believe, but there are actually a lot of people who have never been to the fair. If you’re one of them, you’re missing out on a summer’s worth of fun all in one place. There literally is something for everyone, young and old, crazy thrill-seekers or not. And, what’s special about the Orange County Fair is it is one of the few homages to traditional Americana that we have here in the southland. The OC Fair retains the atmosphere of a county fair from yesteryear, but what’s old is new – especially if, as a child, you were deprived, for whatever reason, of the annual social affair of the summer known as the county fair complete with farm animals raised by 4H young 4H members, a cattle and pig auction, local farmers showing off the best of their produce, a real live cowboy rodeo, crashing bumper cars, dizzying rides, and special treats like cotton candy and funnel cakes – memorable experiences of adventure, excitement, scary, fun, coming of age stories special because it only happened once a year – at the county fair.

When it comes to fair food, you can indulge in gargantuan, fried, bacon madness and chalk it up to your annual “it’s the fair” splurge. Everyone loves to talk about what’s the fried rage this year – so here you go: look for the 2-foot long corn dog, Cheesy Bacon Bombs from Bacon A-Fair, the Waffle Dog and Deep Fried Cookie Dough from Chicken Charlie’s and, my personal fave, the Cheese Jalapeño Chips with Ghost Chile Sauce (above) at Tasti Chips (Centennial Farm and near the Action Sports Arena ) who has also added a heaping Dirty BBQ Chips with shredded beef and all the fixins to their menu and some awesome Angus Beef Burgers with their famous Oh Mommy Bacon Jam and new Ghost Chile Sauce at their Grant Burgers concession.

Tasti Chips Burger OC Fair
You can see why Tasti Chips’ chips and Grant Burgers have been a fair favorite since 1974!

Bacon A-Fair, OC Fair

Bacon A-Fair (located in Park Plaza) uses good quality dark chocolate which makes all the difference in their Chocolate Covered Bacon and Chocolate Covered Peanut Bacon Banana.

New this year is the Wild Boar on a Stick and Cheesy Bacon Bombs

Chicken Charlie’s (Main Mall and Family Fair Way) rules the fair every year with a killer fried item – this year it’s the Waffle Dog and Deep-Fried Cookie Dough. Fair favorites, Fried Avocado and Fried Frog Legs are still on the menu and Chicken Charlie’s also offers a lot of healthier choices which is what I usually go for since I’ve already done my share of damage at Tasti Chips :)

Chicken Charlie's OC Fair

Vegetarian and healthier options available at Chicken Charlie’s Pineapple Express: Deep Fried Avocado is the bomb, Chicken Skewers, Shrimp in Pineapple and Maui Sliders (teriyaki chicken).

Orange County Fair-6765

 Another great thing about the fair is that you can enjoy it purely as a spectator, or you can become an active participant by entering one of the myriad competitions and just possibly create a memorable experience that you’ll remember fondly for years to come. Some take the competitions very seriously, but you can do it just for FUN! Especially for children, being an entrant adds a whole new dimension that’s rewarding and definitely extends enjoyment beyond the thrill of the gravity-defying rides and eating the latest deep-fried marvel: thinking about what to enter, the preparation, meeting the deadline, delivering your entry to the fair before it opens for the day; and best of all – the competition and finding your entry to see if you’ve won a ribbon!

Green Beans 1st Prize

In the past, I would be at the fair at 7:00 a.m. at least one or two of the Tuesday mornings to enter tomatoes, green beans, or zucchini from our garden in the fruit and vegetable category. I was a blue ribbon winner for green beans for several years running and College Girl was a winner in the agricultural area and a multiple winner in the juvenile art category over the years. In the past few year, I’ve graduated to judging and have tasted dozens of sweet & savory tarts to determine a winner, tried more crazy fried concoctions than I care to mention to select a deserving fair food vendor for the Concessionaires award and, this year, I’m lending my taste buds to the Vegan Kitchen Challenge on August 8th.

Chloe OC Fair

Entering homegrown vegetables, baked goods, artwork, collections, etc. to be judged at the fair is a fantastic, rewarding summer activity for kids (and adults). Youth categories include: Photography, Crafts, Service Projects, Fine Art, Jewelry, Collections, Creative Writing, Foods, Table Setting, Farm & Garden, Floral and Livestock. And the best part is you don’t have to be Best of Class, there are categories for the Largest and Ugliest and, besides reinforcing some old fashioned values and knowing where food really originates from, your kids will get a big kick out of running over to the agriculture section to see their homegrown lemons or whatever on display and discovering whether they won a first, second, or honorable mention ribbon. A lot of honorable mentions are given, so your chances of earning a ribbon are pretty good!

OCFair Collage

Don’t miss the Centennial Farms area nearby where kids can get close to some real farm animals and be sure to make your way towards the back where, if we’re lucky, there’s a mother pig who has recently given birth and you can watch the antics of the tiny piglets.

NOTE: The following information is for the 2013 Orange County Fair. Visit the OC Fair’s website for 2014 events and information.

Here’s what’s going on at the fair through this weekend. To check next week’s schedule, go to the Orange County Fair website. Ticket prices to the fair are:

General (13–59) $11
Seniors (60+) $8
Youth (6–12) $6
Children 5 and under free

Wednesdays and Thursdays are promotional days where you can save money on admission and rides. Wednesdays: $30 Unlimited Carnival Rides Wristband (Sold until 5 pm. Valid until 8 pm) – Plus 2 FREE Games and We Care Wednesday’s sponsored by Von’s Pavillions. The one We Care Wednesday remaining is the School Supply Drive | August 7 (Noon – 4 pm) - FREE Admission with Donation of 1 New School Supply Item Valued at $5 or more. Thursday is $30 Unlimited Rides & 2 Free Games (Sold until 5 p.m. and valid until 8 p.m.)

Thursday, August 1 (Open Noon-Midnight)

• ZZ Top in the Pacific Amphitheatre (8:15 p.m.)
• Wanted – The Ultimate Tribute to Bon Jovi in The Hangar (8:30 p.m.)
• Amazing Dobermans in the Action Sports Arena (2, 4, 6 p.m.)
• Kids Day: Children 12 and younger are free all day.
• $30 Unlimited Rides & 2 Free Games (Sold until 5 p.m. and valid until 8 p.m.)
• Food Truck Fare at the 2013 OC Fair: Grub on gourmet food truck fare from Noon-10 pminside the Fair. Access is free with Fair admission. This week the OC Fair welcomes Cousins Maine Lobster, TJ’s Woodfired Pizza, A Bite Truck, Dogzilla, The Lime Truck, The  Burnt Truck and Ragin Cajun.
• Celebrity Chef Michael Chiarello: Join award-winning chef and owner of Bottega in Napa Valley and Coqueto in San Francisco as he demonstrates his secrets for easy entertaining in The Hangar at 4 p.m.
• City Days: Representatives from Garden Grove and Westminster will lead Fairgoers in singing the National Anthem at a 12:30 p.m. Community Flag Salute at The Hangar plus residents of these cities are encouraged to use their City Days coupons for $2 off general admission available at their local city hall and library

Friday, August 2 (Open Noon-Midnight)

• Styx in the Pacific Amphitheatre (8:15 p.m.)
• 40 Oz to Freedom – A Tribute to Sublime in The Hangar (8:30 p.m.)
• Amazing Dobermans in the Action Sports Arena (2, 4, 6 p.m.)
• Seniors Day: $6 admission for guests 60 and older plus free regular Ferris wheel and merry-go-round rides all day
• $2 Taste of Fair Food: Sample Fair favorites for $2 per sample (Noon-4 p.m.)
• $2 Rides & Games (Noon-4 p.m.)
• OC Fair Express: Take a ride directly to the OC Fair from 9 different OCTA transit locations for only $2 one-way or $4 round-trip and receive a coupon for $3 OC Fair admission.
• City Days: Representatives from Buena Park, Cypress, Fullerton and La Palma will lead Fairgoers in singing the National Anthem at a 12:30 p.m. Community Flag Salute at The Hangar plus residents of these cities are encouraged to use their City Days coupons for $2 off general admission available at their local city hall and library.

Saturday, August 3 (Open 10 a.m.-Midnight)

• The Fab Four – Beatles at the Movies in the Pacific Amphitheatre (8 p.m.)
• Which One’s Pink? A Fair Forgery of Pink Floyd in The Hangar (8:30 p.m.)
• Ultimate Dodgeball Championships in the Action Sports Arena (6 p.m.)
• Rise & Shine: Admission is only $3 for everyone the first hour Saturdays and Sundays (10-11 a.m.)
• OC Fair Express & Metrolink: Take a ride directly to the OC Fair from 9 different OCTA transit locations for only $2 one-way or $4 round-trip and receive a coupon for $3 OC Fair admission. Metrolink riders who jump on the OC Fair Express from the Anaheim Canyon, Irvine or Santa Ana stations receive free rides to the OC Fair when they present their Metrolink ticket.
• OC Cupcake Classic Contest: Judged live at the Fair, Fairgoers will see whose dish hits the judge’s sweet tooth in the OC Promenade at 1 p.m. Online registration due by Wednesday, July 31.

Sunday, August 4 (Open 10 am-midnight)

• Hunter Hayes / Sara Haze in the Pacific Amphitheatre (8 p.m.)
• J Boog / Common Sense in The Hangar (8:30 p.m.)
• OC Police Canine Association Show in the Action Sports Arena (4, 6, 8 p.m.)
• Rise & Shine: Admission is only $3 for everyone the first hour Saturdays and Sundays (10-11 a.m.)

Don’t miss the Motor Home Madness Demolition Derby next Thursday, August 8th. BOOM!

Orange County Fair - Motor Home Madness

Motor Home Madness Demolition Derby

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13 Responses to “Get It! At the Orange County Fair”

  1. Ally's Kitchen
    August 1 at 1:24 pm #

    Wow, now this is one tough job, Priscilla! What an array of ‘carnie’ food and it doesn’t get better…I’m really liking the bacon, choco banana! Folks LOVE a fair…it’s just SO AMERICAN! Great post!!

    • Priscilla
      August 1 at 3:44 pm #

      Thanks, Ally! I’ll bet you all have a good ole country fair where you are :)

  2. cheflouisemellor
    August 1 at 1:55 pm #

    So much fun, I love the fair- hoping to go again before it is over

    • Priscilla
      August 1 at 3:44 pm #

      We’re going to see The Fab Four on Saturday – have you ever seen them? If you’re a Beatles fan, you need to :)

  3. Stephanie, The Recipe Renovator
    August 1 at 2:45 pm #

    I have never been to the one in OC or the one here in San Diego! I know, right? But I don’t eat hardly anything they serve and don’t like crowds, so it’s easy for me to skip it. :)

    • Priscilla
      August 1 at 3:43 pm #

      There’s always the grilled corn with chile lime, Stephanie :-)

  4. Jeff Greene
    August 1 at 4:19 pm #

    Going Sunday, and making a note of the Angus Burger with ghost pepper sauce and the wild boar on a stick!

  5. Long
    August 4 at 1:15 pm #

    I think I’m taking the family tonight. The Shrimp in Pineapple and Maui Sliders look great! I’m definitely adding that to my list of things to eat.

    Don’t forget that you can park for free at the Experian parking structure on weekends. It’s just east of the mall. There is a free shuttle that will take you over to the fairgrounds.

    • Priscilla
      August 4 at 1:21 pm #

      Thanks, Long – good to know about the Experian parking option on the weekends! You will not be disappointed in the shrimp or the sliders – definitely enough to share, too :)

  6. Kim - Liv Life
    August 4 at 9:05 pm #

    I have to admit that I’m not usually a fair person. So I skip the fair (we do the Del Mar Fair here…). Liv on the other hand LOVES the fair and would go every day if possible. I’ve avoided it for a few years, and then last year I conceded and took her and you know what? I ended up having a fantastic day!! I need to open my mind more.
    Thanks for the fair round up! You’ve reminded me of the fun!

    • Priscilla
      August 6 at 5:38 pm #

      Hi, Kim – My pleasure :) A lot of times we talk ourselves out of things that, once you’re there, can be a new and fun experience :)

  7. Brooks
    August 8 at 1:32 pm #

    Priscilla, I love this post! Having spent part of my childhood being raised in OC, I know the Fairgrounds well in Costa Mesa. The food pics bring smiles as does the passage regarding being an entrant in fair competitions—I’ve picked up a few blue ribbons myself for baked goods in El Dorado County and the California State Fair. Thank you for this well written piece and the fond memories it evoked.

    • Priscilla
      August 8 at 4:03 pm #

      Hi, Brooks – There is not much left in the way of homespun Americana, especially in southern California. Thank you for the compliment and for stopping by my website :)

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