Fairgoers find food heaven

Tracy Spicer
Assistant Editor

When the month of September rolls around, many people envision the end of summer and the start of another school year. However, for many Southern Californians, September means the return of the annual Los Angeles County Fair at the Fairplex in Pomona.

Pomona-resident Annette Lopez was one of the many Southern Californians who had her tickets in hand on the always-crowded opening day. She has attended the fair multiple times a season for the past 10 years and has her traditional agenda down pat.

“There are certain things I must do since the fair only happens once a year,” Lopez said. “I like to try the new foods featured, like the fried foods and foods on a stick. Every year, I must see the gardens, visit the beer and wine garden and go to some of the concerts. The hypnotist is also a must.”

Amidst the screams of thrill-seekers on the “Kami Kaze” ride and the cheers of spectators at the traditional pig races, many fair patrons like Lopez enjoy sampling the wide variety of food available at the fair.

“So far, it has been sort of overwhelming because it’s been pretty busy,” said Gerlaine Kiamco, a worker at the Pepe’s Mariscos Fresh Mexican Seafood booth. “Our specialty is the fish tacos, which have been really popular.”

This year, more than 250 food and beverage vendors adorn the fairgrounds. One can find everything from international cuisine, such as Italian, German and Thai, to traditional fair favorites, such as funnel cake, barbecue and unusual deep-fried foods.

The Sleek Greek, for example, offers traditional lamb and beef gyros, spanakopita and baklava, while steps away, the Grand Desserts menu boasts “breakfast all day” with cinnamon rolls, pancakes and biscuits and gravy.

“I really like the pork chop-on-a-stick, the barbecue corn and the giant smoked turkey legs,” Lopez said. “This year we tried the Cajun sausage links which were really spicy, but good. I still want to try the new fried avocado and the Aussie battered potatoes. Since there is so much, it’s better to go with a lot of people so everyone can just have a bite of all the different things.”

According to workers at Chicken Charlie’s, their most popular specialty by far this year is the newly featured deep-fried avocado.

“This is my first time trying any of the fried foods and the [deep-fried] avocado is pretty good,” said Eileen Rodrigues, who has attended the L.A. County Fair for the past five years. “I like to look at the different booths and try the different food.”

The Piggly Wiggly also proved to be a favorite vendor with many fair-goers.

“I’ve been going to the fair ever since I was eight years old,” 17-year-old Alexiss Cuevas said. “I always get the Piggly Wiggly curly fries because they’re the best and you can’t find anything like them anywhere.”

In between meals, many fair patrons enjoy walking the fairgrounds and visiting the captivating exhibits that can be found only during the L.A. County Fair.

The Home and Garden neighborhood is one of the most popular destinations, with a relaxed and creative atmosphere.

At the Vineyard Marketplace, the public can sample award-winning wines, cheese, olive oil and beer. The 2005 Wines of the World and Olive Oil Competition winners are aligned in glass cases through?out the building. Fair-goers can also attend wine tasting and culinary classes or purchase French and Tuscan-inspired artwork and other crafts from the specialty stores that border the inside of the emporium.

Next door at the Flower and Garden Pavilion, floral designers created elaborate arrangements with various Bougainvillea, orchid, plumeria and hibiscus flowers that celebrated this year’s theme: “Treasures of Polynesia.”

The crowd circled around the elaborate design by Avila’s Garden Art in the center of the Pavilion.

Waterfalls, colorful parrots perched on bamboo posts, authentic “tiki” statues and a life-size bamboo hut, complete with stairs, truly captured the exotic theme as traditional Polynesian music played in the background.

The American Institute of Floral Designers and the Southern California School of Floral Design also contributed their Polynesian-inspired designs, which also featured an array of hibiscus and orchid flowers on backdrops of plush greenery.

“I visit the fair most years with my family,” said Tracy Maples as she admired the Polynesian displays.

“We have certain traditions every year and one of them is coming here to the flower building to see what is new,” she added.

Outside in the Enchanted Gardens, various landscapers and florists showcased a variety of calming waterfalls, sculptures, bonsai gardens and flowers.

“I really like to walk around the gardens because I like gardening and it’s a great place to get ideas,” Lopez said.

This year, the fair introduces some new attractions such as Sportsfest, which celebrates the history of baseball, basketball, golf and soccer.

The public can view memorabilia from various Southern California professional teams, learn about the physics involved in sports and participate in activities.

The America’s Kids and Education Expo’s Time Machine is another new exhibit at the fair.

It takes participants through various time periods, from the prehistoric era to early colonial America.

A notable change this year is that the L.A. County Fair is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays.

However, the fair continues to offer its discount days, such as Senior Wednesdays, College Thursdays and $5 after 5 p.m. on Wednesday and Thursday nights.

“I usually get tickets for myself, my friends, my family and my friends’ families,” Lopez said.

“I go each year for the food and the music, but most of all, for the atmosphere,” she added.

Tracy Spicer can be reached at tspicer@ulv.edu.

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Posted September 16, 2005
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