This Saturday, Zeon and I took a trip to the opening day at the San Diego County Fair. While we were there, we got to see a lot of cool things -especially cute farm animals, and we ate some seriously weird (but delicious foods). Here's how the day went down.
We arrived at the fair reasonably late, some time around 4, but given as how the fair is open until midnight that still left us plenty of time to explore. We immediately hit the first building to our left, which houses the flower displays and all of the hot tub salespeople you can imagine. That's when we got our first smell of something absolutely heavenly...grilled corn. We didn't have any since we grill our own corn whenever we barbecue, but man did it smell like heaven.
After we got over the distracting smell of grilled corn, we started checking out the flower displays, and while most were rather avant-garde like this one:
There were also quite a few that fell in line with this year's fair theme, "Game On."
Of course, my personal favorite was the only gaming-inspired flower creation.
After leaving the building, we entered one of the many food-filled areas and were immediately welcomed by a travelling incarnation of LA's famous Pink's Hot Dogs.
Right beside Pink's was one of the truly magnificent eateries of the fair, the Bacon-A-Fair, which sells chocolate-covered bacon, bacon-flavored root beer, beer-battered bacon...
two-pound turkey legs wrapped in one pound of bacon...
and all kinds of bacon-y, delicious treats. Notice their sign warning that they offer no vegetarian, kosher, halal, salt-free, fat-free or taste-free foods.
While there's not much fair food available to people with gluten issues, I was at least able to try one of their specialties, the porkabello kebab -a bacon-wrapped mushroom stuffed with cheese. It was good, but it needed more cheese. In fact, this was one of the biggest draws at the fair that would still be incredibly easy to make at home -and I suggest you do.
Just stuff a cheese cube in a mushroom cap and wrap the entire thing with bacon to prevent any cheese leakage. Then skewer the mushroom (I think doing each mushroom separate would make the cheese stay in better and give you more bacon per mushroom) and grill.
We then started heading for the demolition derby scheduled at five. Of course, on our way we got to see even more food booths, including tasty, but not-so-crazy ice cream stands...
and the legendary, very crazy Chicken Charlie's home of deep-fried Kool-Aid, Krispy Kreme sloppy Joes, Bacon-wrapped pickles...
fried Oreos, deep-fried cookie dough and more.
There is literally nothing at Chicken Charlie's I could actually eat, but my friends tried it out. One of them ordered the bacon pickle, which was apparently so tasty she and Zeon ate it all before I could even take a picture. My other friend ordered their chicken strips with onion rings and zucchini curls.
While that sounds less impressive than many of their other offerings, just look at this delicious mess. In fact, it was such a deep-fried pile of goodness that no one could even find the onion rings in the pile -and no one cared.
Chicken Charlie's is right outside the livestock barn where the rotating contests are held. That day's contest involved pigeons.
While you may well be one of those pigeon-haters who considers the birds to be "rats with wings," they actually can be rather pretty.
In fact, doves are technically a pigeon variety and no one seems to think they're just flying rats.
Even if doves don't make you appreciate pigeons more, remember that they are also great military animals and played a major role in WWII. Plus, some of them look like they're trying to be bald eagles and it's hard to get more patriotic than that.
Outside of the livestock area, we saw the fair's two side-show attractions, a giant Florida gator...
and a giant horse. We didn't bother seeing either as they were not only pretty pathetic sideshow attractions, but also pretty sad enclosures for animals.
Finally, it was demolition derby time.
This derby was smaller than most because it was in the fair's indoor exhibition arena, but being smaller only meant there were more crashes per minute.
This demolition derby was sponsored by firefighters, which made sense, since they had to be present to put out any fires that arose...and they did arise.
In fact, many of the drivers were even firefighters, including the best car of the day, which also happened to be sponsored by Mary Kay and painted pink.
After the derby, it was time to hit the other livestock barns, which were filled with sheep and goats like this guy who was getting a nice hair cut.
This guy was a serious lover and just wanted to be pet all day long.
There's a running gag about these sheep being racist and no, not just among me and my friends. I hear people say it every time I'm near these hooded sheep.
These two goats were pretty into petting too, especially the one on the left.
His owner thought he might enjoy coming out and taking pictures with his fans because he was being so lovey, but as soon as he was out of there, he wanted nothing to do with people.
I'm a big fan of goats, especially those that are super short and chubby like this guy.
Amongst all the goats and sheep though, these little guys were the biggest stars -they were just born the day before!
Outside the barns, we just missed the llama 4H competition and these guys were quickly being shuffled back into their trailers. They didn't seem to care about the experience one way or another.
After that, we hit the building where the theme was being celebrated and they did a great job making "Game On" fun for people of all ages. There was giant chess...
giant Connect 4...
and a giant Etch-A-Sketch which seemed far too huge to shake to clear the drawings already created.
For those who dig more modern games, there were all kinds of arcade machines as well.
The fair is hosting daily Family Feud competitions in the building, but we weren't there during the scheduled time.
The building also housed a Zoltar machine, though I was smart enough not to make any wishes near it.
Around this time I started to get hungry, so I headed to one of my favorite snack spots, Tasty Chips, where you can get delicious fresh-fried potato chips. They might not be crazy fair food, but they are delicious.
One of my friends also grabbed a snack, opting for some of the Indian Fry bread.
One of the great things about the food at fair is that even less exciting booths still try to make notably unhealthy dishes to get the attention of fair-goers seeking something special. Tasty chips offered chipotle beef nachos with Gorgonzola, and this Italian booth offered a tortellini sandwich. For those trying to avoid carbs, they also offered a diet-friendly sausage on a stick.
It's also fun just to enjoy the building designs of the fair food vendors. This one offers pretty standard fare, but they always have a line, perhaps because of their adorable building.
The signs can also be a blast. Just look at the display for this place that offered two-pound ribs and cones of French fries.
Of course, fried food still rules at the fair, as this donut shop selling deep-fried Reese's Cups and Snickers would attest to. Still, I was more interested in their jumbo bacon and maple donut.
After a tasty snack, we headed to the gem and wood carving area, where our friend was slated to win an award for his woodwork. While a lot of people bypass these exhibits, they really have some amazing offerings.
The gems area is mostly made up of stone samples and fossils, all of which are stunning.
It really makes you appreciate the beauty of nature.
Then the woodworking exhibit shows how much man can do with a beautiful natural material like wood.
This particular piece illustrated the story line of The Hobbit in beautiful woody detail, I think Tolkien would be proud.
This guitar was a fun tribute to the fair's theme.
Here's another great theme piece, featuring a master blacksmith from World of Warcraft.
I want this art deco jewelry box to be mine.
But I'd be even more thrilled to have this viking cradle for my future raider.
This piece won the Best in Show and while it's impossible to get one picture that shows all the amazing details that secured its position, I think the fact that the clock, table cloth and books on the table are all made from wood is enough to show why it won.
Our friend won an award for his piece for having the best work made from recycled materials. Here he is with his award and the awesome pirate chest he made.
Night time is when the fair really gets going because it just looks so amazing with all those lights.
Heck, even a kettle corn booth looks great at night.
Of course, the rides look especially beautiful at night.
When I used to ride the rides as a youngster though, the Zipper was always my favorite, and it still looks just as appealing.
I didn't go on any rides because I didn't want to pay for fun house rides and I don't like the other ones. If I was going to go into a fun house though, it definitely would have been this great new one.
The ride art is always a blast though, even if you don't like the rides, they're worth looking at.
I really love this terrible Nicholas Cage painting.
If you need a real celebrity connection in your fair rides though, you wouldn't want to miss this swing ride, which was apparently part of Michael Jackson's Neverland Ranch at one point.
Personally, I'm a big fan of the games, but most of them are two expensive. That's why I always take advantage of the quarter toss game. We even won -a tiny crummy yellow dice, but still, we won.
As awesome as all the rides look at night, the kiddie rides are totally abandoned by ten o'clock, making for a beautiful ghost town.
Of course, we didn't hit up the kiddie land to break the tiny, adorable rides...
we came for something much more extreme. That's right, bacon cotton candy.
So what does bacon cotton candy taste like? Not as gross or as delicious as you may anticipate depending on your views. Instead, it was more like mesquite sugar...not offensive or bad, but not the bacony goodness I was hoping for.
On our way out, we ran across a few more amazing food displays, like the fact that the Ten Pound Bun pizza place now sells a bacon Nutella creation that looks utterly amazing.
We also discovered where all the turkey legs sold at the fair come from.
If you're in the area, I highly recommend hitting up the San Diego Fair this year, but if not, head to the local fair in your neck of the woods. They tend to all have many of the same terrible-for-you foods, beautiful lights and adorable livestock, so there's no reason not to visit a fair this summer.