Having a blast on opening day at the Orange County Fair

Alright, I’ll admit it! Sir Rich and Sir Craig had a great time on opening day at the Orange County Fair. The crowds weren’t bad, the weather was great and admission and parking were free for the first three hours!

This year’s theme is Farm Fresh Fun, so we headed for the famous Red Barn that has become an icon of the Orange County Fairgrounds. Kids and families loved the baby animals exhibited there.

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And I was impressed by how high the corn has already grown! When did they plant them? And how can you beat a huge pumpkin!

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Friday’s are senior day, costing only $5 admission for those 60 and older. Seniors also get free rides on the Ferris wheels and merry-go-round.

I wanted to ride La Grande Wheel XL after reading about it on Patch.

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Here’s an excerpt:

“The new La Grande Wheel XL is so big that it was transported on 22 semi-trailer trucks to get to the Fairgrounds. It is 130 feet tall, weighs 616,000 pounds and features a half-million LED lights.

“The 36 cabins are climate-controlled and hold six to eight people. It takes the Ferris wheel about three and a half minutes to make a full circle and can carry about 2,000 passengers an hour.

“La Grande Wheel XL cost $6 million to build and is one of the largest traveling observation wheels in the western hemisphere. This giant new Ferris wheel was manufactured in Switzerland and is known as the Mercedes Benz of carnival wheels.”

Well, La Grande is, well, GRAND! It’s huge, and the cabins really do have air conditioners on top. No wonder, it takes so many big rigs to haul it around.

We didn’t have to wait that long to get on, but it would have taken no time if people would have loaded four to a cabin. Yes, I know the couples wanted to smooch, but cut me a break!

The wait was well worth this, offering towering views of the whole fairground as well as a spectacular view of the Costa Mesa skyline. Couldn’t quite see John Wayne Airport!

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They says two is better than one! So we decided to try another Ferris wheel. Standing more than 108 feet tall, the Big Wheel features the newest technology, with LED lights and 24 open-air gondolas.

But the operator wouldn’t let us on! He didn’t know seniors rode free on Fridays. When we complained to guest services at Ray Cammack Shows, the lady was very nice but said she couldn’t leave her desk to yell at the guy! Oh Well, I hope they get it fixed for the rest of the fair’s run.

It’s exciting just to walk through the sprawling midway, with riders screaming their way through their favorite rides. Returning rides include Big Top Swinger, Cliff Hanger, Cyclone, Insanity, Mach 1, Speed, Wild River and more. For a full list of carnival rides, visit http://ocfair.com/oc-fair/things-to-do/carnival/

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And of course there’s always the carnival shows, where everyone tries to win the coveted stuffed pet that you have to drag around the rest of the day!

By the way, from noon to 4 p.m. on Fridays, rides and games are just $2 in the main carnival and the kiddie carnival.

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Of course, we had to stop in to see the fabulous 4-H Clubs and the beautiful animals that they raise all year to show at the fair. Looking at the list of past winners, I recognized the La Habra clubs, but I was surprised that the Westminster club had won so many blue ribbons!

As usual, I wanted to see the famous Alaskan Pig races, but my buddy thought that was beneath us. Like the giant bull, mammoth horse and huge alligator weren’t?

Eventually, we landed up in the arts and crafts buildings, enjoying the air conditioning and art. I loved the handmade quilts adorning the walls, they really are fabulous works of art! And the woodcrafts were amazing as well!

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Next, we stopped in at The Hangar, where a great rock band was performing. The fair offers shows on several stages throughout the fair. We rocked out for a while!

We didn’t stay around for the evening shows. Comedian Gabriel “Fluffy” Iglesias kicked off the Fair in Pacific Amphitheatre at 8:15 p.m. Tickets started at $45. The David Bowie tribute band Space Oddity performed in The Hangar at 8:30 p.m. and tickets start at $17.50.

Then there was X-treme Freestyle Mo-X in the Action Sports Arena at 8 p.m. with tickets starting at $17.50. I’ve always wanted to see the demolition derby with motorhomes!

Other opening weekend acts include:

Saturday: Lynyrd Skynyrd and OC’s own Jeramiah Red perform in Pacific Amphitheatre at 7:30 p.m. and tickets start at $37.50. In The Hangar, the Pink Floyd tribute band Which One’s Pink? takes the stage at 8:30 and tickets start at $17.50. It’s Speedway Fair Derby in the Action Sports Arena at 8 pm; tickets start at $17.50.

Sunday: The Happy Together Tour starts at 8 p.m. in Pacific Amphitheatre with tickets starting at $22.50. Blue Oyster Cult takes the stage in The Hangar at 8:30 p.m. Tickets start at $20. In the Action Sports Arena, it’s SummerFist 10 at 6 p.m. and tickets start at $15.

All tickets include OC Fair admission. Get your last-minute seats at Ticketmaster.

But we saw an amazing parade of steampunk stiltwalkers and floats. It was terrific! With the beautiful women smiling down upon the crowd while walking 12 feet up in the air.

As they pedaled their zeppelins through the crowds, people stopped to cheer as they spread joy throughout the fairgrounds.

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I always try to sample the award-winning wines at the Orange County Fair. Stop by The Courtyard  for wine tastings and wine by the glass.
This year, OC Brew Hee Haw brings the best in craft beer to the Fair and fans can sample more than 80 brews. Saturday the taps are flowing from noon to 4 p.m. and 6-10 p.m. and on Sunday from noon to 4 p.m.
Tickets are $65 at the door, if available, and $55 in advance at ocbrewheehaw.com and include Fair admission.

If you prefer wine, visit The Courtyard for wine tastings, vino by the glass and assorted nibbles.

OC Fair deals

Super Pass – Enjoy all 23 days of the Fair for the best price! Super Passes are $35 for general admission and $28 for seniors and youth ages 6-12. New this year: Super Pass holders who come to all 23 days of the 2017 OC Fair will win the Perfect Attendance Award and receive a free 2018 Super Pass.

Veterans and active-duty military personnel – Admission is always free with ID and their guests can purchase up to six half-price tickets.

Read and Ride – Kids ages 5-11 can read two books to earn three free carnival rides. Download book report forms at bit.ly/ocfairread and redeem them at the Centennial Farm information booth.

Seniors Day – Those 60 and older get in for $5 every Friday.

$2 rides and $2 games – On Fridays noon-4 p.m. rides and games are just $2 in the main carnival and the kiddie carnival.

Best Deal Ever – On Saturdays and Sundays, Fairgoers can take advantage of this promotion featuring half-price admission and carnival rides for half the usual number of tickets.

OC Fair Express – Take an OCTA bus from one of nine locations direct to the Fair and receive a coupon for $3 general admission, one coupon per person. Bus fare is $2 each way on Saturdays and Sundays, 11 a.m.-midnight. For more information and locations, visit ocfairexpress.com.

Free offsite parking on weekends – Park in the Experian structure at 475 Anton Blvd. (near the Bristol exit off the 405 Freeway), in Costa Mesa and catch a free shuttle to the Fair 10 a.m.-1 a.m.

View a full list of deals and promotions.

The 2017 OC Fair is July 14 through Aug. 13 and will offer 23 days and nights of entertainment, food, rides, shopping, exhibits and more. The Fair is open Wednesdays through Fridays from noon to midnight, and Saturdays and Sundays from 11 a.m. to midnight.

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