The Travels of a Journalist-40,COUNTY FAIR THAT’S A FAIR FOR ALL
Posted on July 13th, 2010

By Shelton A. Gunaratne ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚© 2010

WeƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢¢”š¬‚Junius, Yoke-Sim and IƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢¢”š¬‚had ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ…-a very enjoyable dayƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”š‚ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  at the Los Angeles County Fair on a Saturday (24 Sept. 1983).ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  We arrived on the fairgrounds in Pomona at 10 a.m. and engaged ourselves in an abundance of activities that appealed to our basic senses and detained us at the fair until 9 p.m. Normally, I loathe to spend more than a couple of hours at any event. But the X factorƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  (or emergence) that the fair engendered exceeding the sum of its parts appeared to induce the visitors to linger longer.

Bill Arballo, the media information coordinator for the fair, gave me all the background information I needed for writing the following story, which appeared in the Australian daily The (Hobart) Mercury on 7 Oct. 1983 [with revisions and updates in square brackets]:

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ The Mercury Story

For the first time in my life, I spent more than 10 hours at a fair and still couldnƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢t visit everything I wanted to see. The Los Angeles County Fair, which ran for 18 days and nights from 15 Sept. until 2 Oct., was just too big to handle on a single day and night. [This yearƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s fair will run from 4 Sept to 3 Oct. 2010. The fair began as an annual event on 17 Oct. 1922, and ran for five days through 21 Oct. Highlights of the inaugural event were harness racing, chariot races and an airplane wing-walking exhibition.]

The fairgrounds in Pomona, 30 miles east of Los Angles, cover 487 acres with 1.5 million square feet of exhibit space and 18 exhibit buildings. A record 1.38 million people visited the fair in 1981; but that number dropped by about 162,000 [in 1982]. [Fair attendance has topped 1 million people in every year but one since 1948.]

The Los Angeles County Fair Association calls this the largest county fair in North America. But in terms of 1982 attendance, it ranked ninth of all fairs and expositions behind Columbus, Dallas, Toronto, Oklahoma City, St. Paul, Vancouver, Indianapolis and Tulsa.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  [More than 1.37 million people attended the LA County Fair in 2009ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢¢”š¬‚about the same number as in 1981; and it ranked fourth of all fairs and exhibitions behind Houston, Dallas and St. Paul.]

For someone used to the annual fairs in Brisbane and Rockhampton [in Australia], the LA County Fair strikes not only as big in size but also in imagination and variety.

The fairƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s theme [for 1983] was ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ…-fair for all.ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”š‚ And it certainly had a variety of imaginative things to occupy the interests of almost every visitor who cared to pay $5 to get in. [Admission to the fair has gone up more than twofold to $12 (regular) and $9 (senior) on weekdays. Add $5 extra to these prices for weekends. Among the promotions at the Los Angeles County Fair for 2010 is a season pass for $24.95, about half of last year’s $49.95 price tag.]

One has to remember that in Southern California a fair has to compete with an assortment of famous amusement parks and other attractions to get a share of the audience.

Thus, unlike in most American cities where fairs can become the major draw cards for their duration, the LA County Fair has to go on the offensive to grab attention and to provide attractions that can bring in a diverse audience. [Each of the counties constituting Greater Los AngelesƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢¢”š¬‚LA, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino and VenturaƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢¢”š¬‚has its own annual fair. But the midgets concede the dominance of giant LA]

How does it do it?

It attracts a large number of racing fans by holding daily 12 races with pari-mutuel wagering, a form of betting in which winners divide losersƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢ stakes. [In 1983], every day during the fair there was one Appaloosa, two quarter horse and nine thoroughbred events. The fairƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s grandstand accommodated 20,000 spectators. And the general admission to the track was included in the admission ticket to the fair.

Racing is the No. 1 spectator sport in the United StatesƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢¢”š¬‚larger than baseball and football. Thus the LA County Fair has had horseracing as a major attraction for 45 years.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ 

To go with horseracing are the horse shows presented in Carnation Arena and Equestrian Center. Highlights [in 1983] were the draft and mule show and the Budweiser Clydesdale performances. [This was our last stopover for the day. We crossed the pedestrian tunnel to the stables to have a glimpse of Carnation Arena, etc., before leaving the fair.]

The fair attracts a large number of parents who have small children. It does so by providing free admission to children under 6 and by giving them a full complement of kiddy rides in two locations called Kiddieland [where Junius and Yoke-Sim took a ride on the merry-go-round].

[In 1983, the fair facilitated the children to] also enjoy the ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ…-hands-onƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”š‚ exhibit of barnyard animals in Storybook Farm, where they [could] meet Peter Cottontail, Three Little Pigs, the Cow that Jumped Over the Moon and even some of the animals from Old McDonaldƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s Farm. [Junius had the pleasure of meeting these characters in the afternoon.]

Kids and their parents [could] then go to see the model trains in the railroad village that had rolling stock moving all over a California diorama. [After visiting the Model Train Village and the Plaza of the States, we walked to the Picnic Hill to enjoy our drinks.]

Or they [could] go to a circus under a Big Top featuring animals, high wire acts, clowns, jugglers and trapeze artists. [We visited the Big Top Circus.]

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ Or they [could] go down a simulated shaft to see a replica of the Golden Empire Mine in Grass Valley. [We visited the replica, the Flower and Garden Pavilion. Then, we passed through the Education Expo to the carnival area.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  It being about 7.30 p.m., we stopped at the Red Barn CafƒÆ’†’ƒ”š‚© to eat a special chicken dinner.]ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ 

And if the youngsters [were] tired, they [could] be left at aƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ childcare centerƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢¢”š¬‚a professionally staffed nursery.

The fair includes a number of features to attract the youth as well. They had their own Youth in Action Pavilion in which the theme [appeared to] be ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ…-anything adult exhibitors do we also can do.ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”š‚ Just to the south was the Youth Plaza where they put on various events. [After lunch, we visited the Kitchen Karnival and Youth in Action Exhibit. We stopped for drinks at the Youth Plaza.]

A further attraction for the youth was the evening performance of superstars from stage, screen and television. [In 1983] the fair featured Barbara Mandrell and her Do-Rites group, the Beach Boys and Eddie Rabbitt. Another attraction for them was the championship rodeo held on five consecutive evenings.

The youth were also catered for in the Education Expo, featuring industrial education exhibits and displays from various school districts.

The fair had set apart pavilions to feature the needs of special interest groups in the areas of agriculture, home arts, livestock, poultry, pigeon, rabbits and cavies [guinea pigs], flowers and gardens. After all, [the fair was incorporated] ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ…-primarily for the promotion of the agricultural, horticultural and animal husbandry interests of the great South West.ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”š‚ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ 

The Agricultural Pavilion is a massive exhibition hall refurbished [in the early ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”¹…”80s] at a cost of $4.4 million. This is where CaliforniaƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s various counties try to promote themselves with some of the most imaginative and original exhibits. This is what I enjoyed most.

[We entered the fair through the C Gate and started our walking tour through the World Bazaar. Then, we entered the Agricultural Pavilion, where promoters gave us a surfeit of delicious yogurt to consume on the spot free of charge. This pavilion is a haven for those who like giveaway food samples.]

[In 1983] the fair also featured a first-of-its-kindƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢¢”š¬‚African Images in the New World, an effort to show the African influence upon the arts and crafts of South America. Artists from Surinam and Brazil demonstrated their work in person. Adjoining was an international exhibition of photography. [We visited these exhibits after leaving the Agricultural Pavilion.]

For the train buffs, the fair had an exhibition of historical locomotives, including the ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ…-Big Boy,ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”š‚ the steam-powered locomotive weighing 1 million pounds.

And for the general public, the fairƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s amphitheater presented community programs, concerts, dance exhibitions and contests; its Mexican Village presented artisans, entertainers and exhibitors; its carnival presented more than 60 rides, including a dozen ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ…-screamersƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”š‚; and its neatly landscaped Picnic Hill gave a place to relax and unwind.

Summary of TravelsƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ When I started ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ…-The Travels of a JournalistƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”š‚ series in the first week of December 2009 ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ…-Jogging along LondonƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s canals: Glimpses of DickensƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”š‚), I thought I could tell the world all about my travels in fewer than 20 essays.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  I completed the 42nd installment in the seriesƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢¢”š¬‚the current essay (ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ…-County fair thatƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s a fair for allƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”š‚) in the first week of July 2010. Thus, over the last seven months, I have written approximately 1.5 travel essays per week.

I have so far written on my travels in Britain, Ireland, Germany, Australia, New Zealand and California (United States). I devoted more than half the series to California because of my Fullerton Year, when I became a meticulous travel planner and a self-taught expert on the state.

I hope to continue to document my travel saga at a much more leisurely pace, perhaps once or twice a month, during the rest of the year.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ 

(The writer is a professor of mass communications emeritus, Minnesota State University Moorhead.)

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  Picture 1:ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  The 2009 LA County FairƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ 

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ 

Source: Wikimedia Commons

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ 

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ Picture 2: Plaza of the States at the 1983 LA County Fair

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