GIF ©2014 by Sugar Looney [CC-by-2.0]
Eighty four degrees Fahrenheit, pale white tongues, chapped lips, clear blue skies with no clouds in sight; it was summertime in Southern California. Loading up the Honda CR-V on our annual trip to the Orange County fair, my family and I were filled with excitement. It didn’t matter that we burned our hands putting on our seatbelt or that we applied four layers of sunscreen on beforehand. What mattered to us was that we would be able to go to the fair. We would be able to feel the emotions and thrill that truly was (and still is) a powerful, life-changing experience.
During the burning sizzling hot days of summer, when the sun scorches the ground, dries the air, and creates mirages of distant objects, the Orange County fair is open. Marking the date in the calendar, with a large Sharpie marker and spending endless, quiet nights under the blanket sheets planning the trip brings anxiety. Contacting friends and family about the fair and simply searching for deals and coupons was enjoyable and amusing. Just seeing the brightly colored billboards hanging over the freeway made my body jolt with joy. Driving towards the fair and drooling across the car window with hopeless and exhausted frowns, you pass dozens of burnt brown patches of dried grass.
Arriving at the parking lot, numerous cars swarmed the spaces like moth to a flame. This rainbow ensemble of different vehicles and colors within the small and cramped parking space rejuvenated your anxious soul as you race out of the car and quickly grab your belongings. Looking around, the sunlight pierced your vision, momentarily blinding you and causing you to squint. Taking a deep breath to gather yourself, you see hundreds of children, tightly holding their parents hands with broad smiles, front teeth missing, heading towards a sheen white gate brightly labeled “Entrance.”
Photo ©2005 by Beth Felice [CC-by-2.0]
With unblinking eyes and an unconsciously moving body, you follow the never ending line of people until you arrive at the end. About thirty minutes into the wait, you can see the controlled chaos that emerges from the glistening rides and attractions within the fairground. “Have a great day,” the front ticket master greets, as the entrants walk awestruck with mouths wide open, admiring the vast beauty ahead of them. Walking forward, people would find themselves lost, not only in the great drone of bustling people, but lost in the glamour of the fair.
Once you enter the fair, the immediate, yet soothing smell of grass and nature present themselves. Salesmen from checkered, striped, and lit up booths eye you and enthusiastically approach you with wide smiles, attempting to encapsulate you in their riveting game or attraction. There are loud buzzes from piping hot grills that create large opaque clouds ten feet above the ground. Looking just underneath the grey fog is a long, united red carpet of booths with animated signs and posters that line the top. The smell of enticing oil and grease no longer makes one disgusted, rather causing them to salivate. Buying the food itself is actually rewarding, despite the prices for the food being far too high. Amongst the crowd, there are people laughing from telling jokes and interacting with complete strangers. Children are crying, but with smiles on their faces, from wanting to continue to stay at the fair longer. The sound of soda cans popping open and the overflowing fizz is heard several times a minute.
Photo ©2007 by Barney Barrett [CC-by-2.0]
Animals attracted a wonderfully large audience. The stables, all completely filled and lined up with goats, lambs, rabbits, and all other different animals, had the kids literally twitching with excitement. With dozens of kids running around frantically, shoelaces untied, the animals in the stables created a harmonious melody of their own, as though conversing with the children.
A large, blue striped stadium aligned itself on next to the large farm. People flocked to this stadium in order to catch a glimpse of the popular and famed pig races. The cheers echoed throughout the fair and the announcers hyping up the event created a competitive and intense feel. Chants would explode from the stands as the starting marker was set off, and the most organized groups would have comforting routines prepared for their little pink hero. In the crowd, people would clutch their heart when the pig they were rooted for lost. People would bond together and share a common incentive over something as minor as a pig race. With the races over, leaving the arena allowed you to see the beads of sweat rolling down others’ smiling faces.
Photo ©2006 by Xopher Smith [CC-by-2.0]
Relieving yourself of the cluster, an intricate spider web of lights and rides, connected by the vividly moving bodies, could be seen. With apparently close zooming noises and satisfyingly terrified echoes of screams, the masses moved from one perfection of a ride to the next. Riding on the liberating, yet restrictive seat on one of the attractions was exuberating. The wind sifts through your hair as your mind and body are in harmony. Bells would ring and fans would cheer as a new champion was crowned in the fair’s games. Fear and shivers run down your spine as you think there is a walking stuffed monkey, until you realize it is actually a young, smiling child strutting proudly and gracefully with his spoil of war.
Leaving the fairgrounds, you look at the pictures and videos taken through your camera and share the fantastic and exhilarating moments of the day. Driving away from the fair and looking out the window to see the same patches of charred grass, you see that transparently clear stain of drool as well as the alluring skyline of the OC Fair, this time, with a smile.
It does not matter where you were before or what you did during your journey. From the plentiful and diverse food booths, games, rides, and other events, the fair is a life-changing experience that changes the perspective that people have in their lives, even if it’s just the smallest aspect or detail.