The 129th annual Orange County Fair begins Friday with hopes of topping its all-time attendance record of 1.4 million set last year.
And one fairgoer sure to help boost attendance all 23 days will be Costa Mesa Mayor Katrina Foley.
“I go to the fair every night,” Foley said, adding her family practically lives next door to the fair.
“We buy our whole family a pass for the summer so the fair is like going to the park at night,” Foley said. “We just walk around, see a lot of friends, hang out in front of the Hangar, listen to the music and walk through the exhibits. It’s a fun summer evening event. I love the fair and cannot wait for Friday.”
But what’s got the vegetarian mayor really excited are some new dining choices at the fair, which is known for its fried foods.
“I saw they have more healthy choices this year,” she said. “I don’t eat meat so it’s tough for me… But I enjoy the friend avocado and this year I hear they have some really good salads and, of course, my favorite is the corn. I love the fair’s corn.”
Foley may want to try the Beyond Burger, a meatless option at Biggy’s & Juicy’s, which is one of many first foods at the fair this year.
Another exotic dining option will be the Fruity Pebbles Shrimp Po’ Boy at Get Fried, and Cinnamon Maple Bacon Bombs at D&D Country Cinnamon Rolls for dessert.
OC Fair Board member Ashleigh Aitken and her family usually buys livestock at the fair, which can provide meals for the family for six months.
“We’re a big supporter of the fair’s junior livestock competition,” Aitken said. “We’ve gotten a steer in prior years, but we usually get a sheep and a pig from a female student from north Orange County.”
The Aitken family invested in a deep freezer when she joined the fair board in 2012.
“We have bacon, pork chops, sausage, ribs, lamp chops, meats for stews,” Aitken said. “It’s organic Orange County-raised meat instead of buying stuff from the store. And we get to support young, hardworking kids working in agriculture.”
This year’s fair will also feature more thrill rides than ever before.
Titan, which fair officials say is the largest traveling booster ride in the country, will debut in California. Some of the fair’s first attendees will get a chance to be among the first 32 to enjoy the thrill ride, which takes guests 17 stories into the air to experience 4G acceleration and speeds up to 60 mph.
The fair will also feature the Ice Jet, a polar bobsledding ride and the Circus Train and Tea Cups will be added to the rides for kids.
The Fair will also play host to a wedding as a new contest will offer a lucky couple memorable nuptials in a barn. Winners will be announced Aug. 3 and the wedding will be Aug. 10.
Another first will be solar- and wind-powered charging stations near the Green Gate.
The concert schedule at the Pacific Amphitheatre includes Ziggy Marley, Pat Benatar and Neil Giraldo with Melissa Etheridge, Styx, Chicago, Smokey Robinson, Dwight Yoakam, Kool and the Gang with Evelyn “Champagne” King, the B-52s, Michael McDonald with Chaka Khan, Weird Al Yankovic, George Thorogood and the Destroyers, Live with Bush, America with Poco.
Post-fair shows at the Pacific Amphitheatre include Collective Soul with Gin Blossoms and Jackson Browne.
“I’m very excited about Jackson Browne,” Foley said.
Aitken said she and her family will be at the opening of the fair handing out swag bags.
And she will be there at the fair’s close for the demolition derbies in the last week.
“There’s nothing more fun than watching the head of the Newport Beach police trying to destroy the motor home of the chief of Costa Mesa police,” she said with a laugh.
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