I have a confession to make. In 37 years of life, I have never attended the Los Angeles County Fair. My wife was in the same position. We set out to change that this year.
We used Groupon to find a deal on passes for the whole family. The trip would consist of my wife and I, our two daughters, and their grandma. September was lining up to be a busy one for us and only had a few days to choose from. Despite a late Saturday, we decided Sunday the 10th was the day we’d make the trip to the city of Pomona. Having never been to the fair, we thought it was best to get out there early. We set out for a 40-minute drive at around 11:30 in the morning.
It was the 12 o’clock hour when we were driving with the parking lot crowd, being directed to our spot. We stepped out of the air-conditioned car and onto a wall of heat. This was the first indication the day would not be as enjoyable as I had thought.
Entry was easy enough. We slipped our 1-year-old into the stroller, locked the car, and walked towards the giant canopies signaling the entrance.
There was not much of a line and we walked right inside. I felt like a tourist immediately. I stood in place, lost, trying to figure out how many tickets I should purchase, the cost of each ride, and the direction we needed to go.
Buying tickets was the first task. If we wanted to do anything at the fair, we would need tickets. As it turns out, “tickets” is now nothing more than the term associated with paying for rides or games at a fair. I was not given carnival-style tickets. Instead, I was given a card that had preloaded credits. Hopping on a ride required I hand the card to an employee so that it could be scanned and the credits subtracted from its balance.
With “tickets” in hand, we decided it was best to grab lunch before trekking through the place. As we walked in the direction of the food, I was seduced by the barbecue stand. It was a massive grill with slab after slab of ribs, chickens cut in half, sausages, kabobs, and giant turkey legs. My wife and mother-in-law continued walking but I knew I would be sitting down with ribs and a pile of napkins.
After picking up my ribs, we all reunited at a roundtable with an umbrella to block out the sun. We sat down to a table of ribs, a half chicken, tacos, sopes, a quesadilla, and my oldest daughter’s plain hot dog (teenagers). The barbecue spot was the clear winner. The tacos and quesadilla were just okay and the sopes were smothered in beans with tiny sprinklings of meat, lettuce, and tomatoes. At least the ribs and chicken were satisfying enough to keep us in good spirits. It was time to finally begin our expedition of the grounds.
The sun was beating down on us from the peak of its daily arc. We walked along the path from the food area and came across a haunted house. Having just watched It the night before, my daughter and I were both in the mood for a good scare. I was not thinking clearly. I was obviously still lost in the smoke of the ribs. It did not dawn on me this was an old-school, drive-thru attraction consisting only of twists through a dark path and carefully timed recorded screams. Not only was it not scary, it was over in less than two minutes. As the exit doors swung open and our car pushed through to where we began, a child was passing by with his mother and asked us if it was scary. Our reply, a resounding, “No!”
The sun continued to walk directly above us, its rays slowly draining our energy with each step. We eventually reached an indoor exhibit of Alice in Wonderland. We rushed inside to escape the heat. There were paintings, floral arrangements, and various sets, all inspired by the story of the girl lost in a magical world. There was even a section with real animals that had been portrayed in the tale. We spent as much time as possible inside, making sure to stop at the bridge with artificial rain before stepping outside again.
We walked past the dinosaur exhibit. It was simply too excruciatingly hot to take on that uphill climb. Instead we located a coconut vendor and purchased two fresh ones. We sat down across from the cockatoo exhibit and watched them splay their wings while we drank coconut water.
We remained in place for at least 30 minutes before continuing to the exotic animal area. I was excited to find myself so close to a giraffe, ostriches, porcupines, and others but nobody else seemed to share my excitement. I walked through the entire area while the rest of the family watched from afar, perched by some trees enjoying the shade.
I stopped to get a giant waffle cone with matching scoops of mango and strawberry gelato. This was enough to cool us down for a bit and give us enough of a sugar rush to get through what remained of the fair. We made it all around and reached the front area again. Grandma and the baby had both had enough by this point. The munchkin was asleep in her stroller and we left Grandma sitting down under a tree with her.
The remaining three of us made our way to the Crazy Coaster. The three of us had been on bigger coasters and we didn’t think this would be great but it was worth trying. The car you sit in is shaped like a half doughnut, with the leg holds coming down from the center of the car out to each seat. The car itself does not move at a high rate of speed but the turns are sharp and sudden. The outside seats feel as though you’re off the track the entire time while the turns practically launch you from the tracks. The intense part comes after the initial drop, as the car begins to spin while traveling down the track. It’s the equivalent of taking one of the Disney teacups and having it travel down Disneyland’s Alice In Wonderland caterpillar ride.
The strength of the sun was finally diminishing. Unfortunately, our own energy had depleted long before. The only thing left for us was to split a funnel cake piled with strawberries and topped off with whipped cream. This, of course, is the only way to end any proper visit to an amusement park or carnival of any kind. We drove home tired but still happy we had finally taken in the fair. We will return next year but it will be by moonlight rather than the unforgiving light of the Los Angeles sun.