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Learn, pig out and groove at the L.A. County Fair

Staying in L.A. this Labor Day weekend? You can see animals big and small, eat deep-fried delicacies, ride the roller coasters or catch Al Green performing at the fair.

September 03, 2009|Alie Ward

"We've had people faint and fall on the ground; we've had people throw up . . . ," starts Sky Shivers, manager of the Big Red Barn at the Los Angeles County Fair. He is describing various Southern Californians' reactions to watching a live cow birth. "We've had mothers shield their children's eyes and drag them out of the pen."

Starting Saturday and running through Oct. 4, the L.A. County Fair is expected to lure roughly 70,000 people a day to the Pomona Fairplex for carnival rides, funnel cakes, live music and acres of sawdusty attractions including pig races, chicken hatchings, mini ponies, baby bunnies and a new exhibit dedicated to the goat meat industry.

"I've been to many other fairs," Shivers says, explaining what makes the L.A. County Fair unique. "Here, there's more exhibits of what we call 'edutainment,' where you enjoy watching something you don't normally get to see and you're also being educated."

This year's fair is also a draw for holiday thrift-seekers opting for a "staycation," says the fair's vice president of creative programming, Dale Coleman.

"The value message this year is huge," Coleman explains. The "promotions" page of the fair's website is a glut of bargains including coupons offered by local retailers and discounts for Dodgers fans and city employees. Early birds arriving between 10 a.m and 1 p.m. this Labor Day weekend can get in for $1, rather than the usual $17 adult ticket price. Saving money on admission means a better excuse to disobey your cardiologist at the fair's labyrinth of food stalls.

Hawking chocolate-covered bacon, frog legs and turkey drumsticks fit for a caveman, the fair celebrates not only the harvest, but the end of bikini season. Chicken Charlie, innovator of culinary aberrations such as deep-fried Twinkies and batter-dipped Spam, is a living legend at the Fairplex. But it's not all nutritional nightmares. The Farmhouse Kitchen stages demos on preparing fresh and healthful produce, and the L.A. International Wine & Spirits Marketplace invites fair goers to swirl and sniff varietals during daily tastings.

The fair's midway features a tangle of roller coasters and a 16-story Ferris wheel, but those seeking less visceral thrills can stroll through the new animatronic dinosaur show, catch a monster truck bout or watch pirate-themed trapeze acts. The fair's End of Summer concert series includes entertainers as varied as Peter Frampton, Good Charlotte, the Beach Boys, LeAnn Rimes, Donna Summer, hip-hop darling Ciara and Pat Benatar.

Soul legend Al Green kicks it off with a performance on Saturday.

Green, a veteran of the Hollywood Bowl and the Greek Theatre, says of the expected crowd, "L.A. is the entertainment capital of the world and a lot of those same people that make Hollywood tick are coming out to the fair."

"And L.A. is going to do what L.A. does," he adds, "and that's just go nuts."



Los Angeles County Fair

Where: Pomona Fairplex, 1101 W. McKinley Ave., Pomona

When: Saturday-Oct. 4, 10 a.m.-midnight; closed Mondays and Tuesdays except Labor Day

Price: Opening weekend: (10 a.m.-1 p.m.) $1; (1 p.m.-midnight) $17 adults, $12 children

Contact: www.lacounty

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