Fact: There are over 50 county fairs in California each year (California has 58 counties, but a few don't have fairs.)
Last year when a group of us packed into a car and drove 45 miles to the Free Admission Day (on Labor Day Weekend) of the Fair, we got caught in a traffic jam that ended up never allowing us to get out of the car or even get in line to enter the gates of the L.A. County Fair. It was a nightmare, and we swore we'd never repeat it.
Yet a year goes by and you quickly forget about stupid mistakes. So this year we packed into a car and drove to the Orange County Fair on Free Day, which lasts only 1 hour — opening day from Noon to 1 p.m. The savings are so significant on free admission days that camp buses filled with kids (thousands of them) pile into line along with the masses of families and friends. On free days, your can save up to $100 per car load of people and easily spend that money once inside the fair, buying $3.50 bottles of water, $10 BBQ beef sandwiches and $7.50 banana splits. It all adds up!
But the question-is it worth it?- still has to be answered. The crowds at free days are so massive, especially in tough economic times, that once crammed inside the fairs, there's hardly space to walk or see much of anything. The only place that isn't crowded is the Exit.
Recently several counties thought they'd lose their fairs when former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger announced state fair lands were going up for sale to help close the budget gap. But court orders have given some a reprieve, and many counties own their own fairgrounds and won't be as impacted if funding is slashed.
Are fairs popular? YES! Fairs provide the one chance for people to see the latest carnival rides, try the greasiest food fads, see new fangled gadgets, and watch shows such as the pig races or idol contests. Most fairs also have concerts with popular acts. Are they expensive to attend? Yes-especially if you eat food (and who doesn't?)
Are the crowds worth fighting? It all depends...we stood in line 1.25 hours to to get into the free fair. We rushed over to the Ice Palace - ice sculpture attraction and stood in line 1 hour 20 minutes to see it. We went into the fair exhibit halls that were so crowded, you had to walk slowly in masses of people and could not easily make your way through. We then stood in line to order food but decided after 20 minutes it wasn't worth it. We left the fair so we could eat.
Total hours spent standing in lines =3 hours approx. Total time at the fair = 4 hours. Total money spent at the fair = $0. Would I do it again? Not this year-but next year I'll probably forget. That's why I am writing this story, to remind myself when I contemplate doing it all over again!