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Orange County FAMILY

Battle of the Midway

Fair veteran--and Costa Mesa 6th-grader--shares his strategies for a full-on attack.


Colby Reedy gives it to you straight.

"I have a little bit of a problem with gambling," the Costa Mesa sixth-grader happily admits. "I like the games a lot. . . . I like 'em better when I win."

Not to worry. Colby gets no kick from blackjack. It's bust-the-balloon and toss-the-coin this boy's all over; he loves those irresistible carnival games at the Orange County Fair.

No surprise.

His family--including parents Terry and Lisa and his 8-year-old sister, Chanteal--lives a short stroll from the grounds in Costa Mesa. (This year's 106th edition of the fair opens Friday and continues through July 26.)

Colby says he and his family have been fairgoers every summer "since before I can remember."

Fair general manager Becky Bailey-Findley says she and the boy have been friends since he won a "name the resident buffalo contest" in 1994. (He called it "Totanka," and the moniker stuck.)

So, who better than Colby to offer tips on how to get the most out of your family's trip to the fair?

We caught up with Colby last week, and--using his ideas and suggestions from other fair insiders--we've put together a quick guide to the O.C. Fair from a young person's perspective.

Rides and Games

Colby says that the "bungee-jumping things" are the rides that have made the biggest impression on him in recent years. Too bad his folks won't let him ride them ("I don't even ask," he says with a sigh).

Look for more realistic rushes for little ones on the midway and in KidLand. Tony Fiori, marketing director for Ray Cammack Shows, which supplies and operates the about 50 rides and games at the fair, rattles off several proven winners with gradeschool-aged kids.

"The Hydro Slide is very big," says Fiori, speaking by cell phone over the squeals of carnival-goers at his current assignment, the Del Mar Fair. On this ride, ticketholders sit inside a plastic log and skim up and down water-filled chutes.

The Tilt-A-Whirl and the Tornado, both of which involve lots of spinning and high speeds, are also a hit with this age group, Fiori says.

And he expects Spin-Out, a new addition, to turn heads--and probably stomachs too.

"It's designed for the thrill-seeker," Fiori says. "It has tubs suspended from four or five arms, and people get in them, and the tubs go up in the air clockwise and then go over sideways."

Thrills and chills are great, but what about safety? Fiori says signs are posted at each ride listing safety rules and height restrictions, which he says are carefully enforced.

If you can swing it, Colby suggests taking in the midway on a Monday, when the fair offers an unlimited-ride wristband for $15. Tuesday through Friday, 10 rides are $10.

Other ways to get the adrenaline pumping: In the Grandstand Arena, there's speedway sidecar racing (Friday), Youth Motorized Olympics (Sunday) and the Flying U Championship Rodeo (July 23-26).

As for the midway games, Colby likes bust-the-balloon-with-the-dart, the coin toss and the squirt-gun race, but not the toss-the-basketball-through-the-hoop game because "we've never had very good luck there," he says.

Contests and

Other Neat Stuff

There are other ways to test your skills. Colby and his sister say contests in the youth-oriented Kids Park and on the Heritage Stage are a guaranteed good time. And, as Chanteal points out, "Sometimes you win prizes too."

Theme contests, most of which have children's and adult's categories and many of which this year will involve rapid consumption of pinkish foodstuffs, are held daily at 1 p.m. on Heritage Stage. A sampling includes the Pink Bubble Gum Blowing Contest (Friday), the Championship Cotton Candy Contest (Sunday) and the Hot Dog Eating & Building Contest.

We're guessing winners will later indulge in another pink contest: Pepto Bismol-chugging.

Kids Park, which features games, hands-on crafts and interactive entertainment, hosts its own string of contests including Cherry Lemonade Drinking (Saturdays and Thursdays) and Pink Jello Jiggler Stacking (Tuesdays).

The Kids Park stage also hosts performances of the audience-participation University of Fun troupe.

Kids can visit the Youth in Motion building, where they can take in exhibits by local youth, see performances by dance schools and other groups and take part in a community weave using a real loom, as well as make paper with recycled materials or fulfill their pop music fantasies on the karaoke stage (evenings only).


Almost every kid who goes to the fair eventually hangs out with the animals. Chanteal goes for "the lambs and stuff" at the three-acre Centennial Farm, while Colby favors the pigs, rats, snakes and birds in the 4-H and Future Farmers of America livestock area.


Naturally, all this fun and frolicking works up a powerful appetite. At the fair, Colby says he always downs at least one of the monster cinnamon rolls (they'll sport pink icing this year) and a funnel cake or two. Fried zucchini is popular with his friends, Colby adds.

Everyone will will find soda, corn dogs, cotton candy and other favorites at stands throughout the fairgrounds. Too nutritious? Gradeschool-aged children can sign up for a Hostess Sno-Ball Eating Contest.

The 1998 Orange County Fair, "We're in the Pink: A Tribute to Fiber Arts, Fuchsias & Fun," opens Friday and continues daily through July 26 at the Orange County Fair & Exposition Center, 88 Fair Drive, Costa Mesa.

Hours: Monday-Wednesday, noon-midnight; Thursday-Sunday, 10 a.m.-midnight. Admission: $2 for children 6-12, $5 for 55 and older, $6 for adults 13-54. Children under 6 are free daily.

Special admission days: Children 12 and under are admitted free on Friday and July 17 and 24. On July 13 and 20, those age 13 to 17 get in for $4. On senior days--July 16 and 23--those 55 and older are admitted for $3 and receive free carousel and ferris wheel rides. Call (714) 708-3247 or visit the Web site:

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