On Thursday I took the day off from work and we went to the Orange County Fair. It was a particularly bizarre visit because Costa Mesa was beneath the smoke plume from the Holy Fire (so named because it started in Holy Jim Canyon) burning in the Santa Ana mountains.

The sky, except for clear blue patches to the west and south, was a yellowish brown. The sunlight was dim and yellow.

[Looking up at a log ride against clouds of brownish smoke.]

When we arrived, the entire ticket sales system was down. All the booths. All the self-serve kiosks. You couldn’t buy tickets for any of the rides, unless you could find one of the wandering cash-only ticket sellers, roaming the fair like quest-giver NPCs.

[Looking up at a Ferris Wheel against clouds of yellowish-brown smoke.]

We did eventually find someone who could sell us tickets. At that point, the sun emerged briefly through a break in the smoke. The deep red-orange disc was dim enough to look at comfortably, and lit up the fissures in the cloud a lurid red.

[Crowds at the fair, and rides, with smoke above and some blue sky in the distance.]

Fair food keeps getting more and more outrageous. Deep fried Twinkie dogs and Zucchini Weenies have been joined by triple-decker donut burgers, chicken-in-a-waffle-on-a-stick, and the donut chicken and ice cream sandwich. But for sheer “because we can” ridiculousness: deep-fried filet mignon. What a waste.

[Food stand selling fried...everything.]

It was early evening by the time we left, and as we walked to the gate closest to where we’d parked, we saw a bright orange line in the distance. Was it the glow of the flames behind the mountain? Or the flames themselves on top of the ridge? We were too far away to tell. But that line shimmered, and we watched a deeper orange glow appear and fade behind another part of the ridge. It’s hard to be sure, but I think it might be burning in the valley between the two peaks of Saddleback.

[Night view: Mostly black, with an orange line silhouetting the edge of a mountain.]

I’ve finally found something more crowded than Comic-Con International: The Orange Street Fair on a Saturday night.

I think we usually end up going on Sunday, because while it’s usually a solid crowd, I don’t remember feeling quite so…herded. We ended up not doing much more than getting dinner and dessert.

Still, the baklava on Greek Street was good, as were the “Australian” potatoes (that probably weren’t any more Australian than the ice cream), and one of the lemonade stands was offering diet lemonade sweetened with Stevia, which meant Katie could actually drink it.


“Do you want a Viking helmet?” “F%@# yeah, I do!”

“Is your name Don?” “Uh, no.” “I wonder what it would have meant if your name was Don.”

“These cupcakes are insufficiently sized.”

“Do you even know where you’re going?” “Yeah, that way.”

We went to the Orange County Fair on Saturday afternoon. Most years we end up going to at least one of the Pacific Amphitheater’s summer concert series, which includes fair admission, so we just combine it into one trip. This year it was Melissa Etheridge, and we also had another goal: Al’s Brain.

We started by grabbing some water and (in my case) a chocolate milkshake (because I wanted some ice cream, dangit! and drinkable made it easier), then wandered through the arts and crafts displays, where they showed prize-winning jewelry, crochet, display models, dresses, origami, etc.

Al’s Brain

A giant sand sculpture of a brain and Weird Al's head.Then we made our way to the back of the fair, where they had set up a portable theater for Al’s Brain (in 3-D!). There was a huge sand sculpture out front of “Weird Al” Yankovic holding out a brain in his hand. An animated question mark and exclamation point would occasionally pop out the top of his head, and smoke would pour from his ears.

“Weird Al” has actually had a long association with the Orange County Fair, often doing free concerts on multiple nights during the run. We’ve seen him there at least twice, possibly three times. One year there was a “Weird Al” museum of sorts. This year, he got involved in a short 3-D educational film (comedic, of course) about the brain.

Continue reading

Actress Gigi Edgley, probably best known to American audiences as Chiana on Farscape, has another talent: fire twirling. She’s been performing at the weekly Huntington Beach street fair with (I think) her boyfriend, and plugged the show at the latest Farscape convention in Burbank last month. My parents, also Scapers, set up a trip with their fan meetup group and invited the two of us along.

Last night we carpooled down to Huntington Beach, arriving around 7:00. The fair runs Tuesday evenings from 5-9pm, and they block off several blocks of Main street near the pier for vendors, a farmer’s market, and performers. We didn’t see anyone else from the group where we were supposed to meet, but we did see someone carrying flaming torches (and someone else carrying what appeared to be a giant unicycle) on the opposite corner of the intersection.

Gigi started with a “warm-up” twirling a long pole with flames at either end, then Jamie came in juggling flaming torches. There was a tongue-in-cheek magic trick in which she made him “disappear.” Somewhere along the line he did some tricks on a normal-sized unicycle (including jumping over a kid’s legs with it) — while juggling. Then Gigi started swinging around chains with torches on the ends. The whole show concluded with Jamie juggling atop a twelve-foot-high unicycle.

After the show, Gigi recognized my dad’s Farscape hat, and came over to talk for a bit. (My parents have been to a lot of Farscape conventions, and my mom tends to go for the autograph signings and meet-the-actors events.) At this point we did run into two other people from the meetup group.

Afterward we (me & Katie, my parents, and the others from the fan group) went to dinner at Fred’s, which was…slow. We were in line by 8:00 at the latest, and didn’t get out until almost 10:30.