The California State Fair 2008

Peter took a day off work so we could visit the California State Fair on Thursday. It’s one of our regular summer highlights, a fair that celebrates all things Californian in such a big and spectacular way (and changes up its entertainment every day) that it’s impossible to take it all in.

This year’s theme was Hollywood, and this year we took in fewer of the exhibits, wine tasting, and animals, and saw more shows. But I get ahead of myself. The first thing I had to do when I arrived at the State Fair was try fried frog legs.

For whatever reason, the state fair has several food booths where you can experience food you’ll never find elsewhere. And for whatever reason, it’s become an opportunity for me to have the I-can’t-believe-I-ate-something-that-gross experience once a year. Last year, I had fried avocado, tomatoes, and a fried Oreo cookie. This year, I ate frog legs (stringy chicken with a fishy aftertaste), a fried Twinkie with chocolate on top, and in response to Peter’s dare, a fried White Castle burger. Do I even need to mention that I had no appetite for the rest of the day?

As usual, we had to check out the weird stuff for sale halls. Peter and I had our rings polished up by duelling ring cleaners, each of which was able to get our rings cleaner than the one before had done. Neil invested $25 in a curving road track he’s been admiring for years (and the seller knew it.) Peter teased a shoe cleaning system seller to get the paint off his $9 Wal-Mart shoes. Well, it just figures that the man managed to do it and polish up my ragged shoes and Kelly’s well-worn ones as well. Peter ended up spending $30 for the cleaners, even though it cost more than our shoes ever will.

In the special Hollywood exhibit, we saw–well, actually participated in, a great show put on by a sound fx artist. As the designated beach girl, I provided the sound of surf…next to a maniac using a rubber chicken to produce the sounds of a tortured seagull. Afterwards, famous director Otto Focus gave me a card promising to put me in his next movie, but I had a sneaking suspicion he wasn’t completely sincere. But we did get some quality kazoos and a slide whistle, so we may have a future behind the scenes…

Back by the competition exhibits, we caught a great show put on by some Chinese Acrobats, and the hypnotist we’d seen the year before, but who’s always amusing. He invited the state fair audience to see his night time show nearby, which he said was racier–but his “family” show was pretty racy to begin with! Among other things, he always hypnotizes a pretty girl into giving him a passionate kiss when she hears his verbal cue.

In the schedule I noticed the Cavalcade of Horses was having a special “Hollywood” show that promised to include Darth Vadar, the Matrix, and Iron Man on “dancing” horses. It turned out to be pretty corny: intermediate level vaulting with the vaulters coming down and doing a bad pantomime off horse, and dressed up dressage. On the other hand, I don’t think there’s any other place in the universe you’d be able to see Darth Vader and Iron Man in combat dressage, like ever. (Iron Man “won” BTW).

We had to see the Counties exhibit, too, though Solano County, the usual winner of the displays competition, seemed out of sorts to have lost to Sacramento County. But then, Solano County had decided to spotlight the movies that had been filmed in it (the best of which was “Howard the Duck”) while Sacramento had recreated its entire county in paper sculpture. Understandably, Los Angeles County had the Hollywood theme sewed up, but I was confused when I first saw two cardboard cutouts of Lou Ferrigno standing in the booth, one in the Hulk make-up and one in what I thought was a policeman costume. Heck, I thought, I run into Lou Ferrigno at every comic book show: so why did Los Angeles just put up Ferrigno in paper form? But it actually turns out that when he’s not acting, Lou Ferrigno is a Los Angeles police officer. Oh. So don’t get on his bad side, because he can throw you in jail, both physically and legally.

Most nights, the fair has a headline performer, and this night it was Air Supply, the soft rock band. They have a lot of fans, and we happened to be walking along the ramp behind the stage as they played their encore song “All Out of Love,” and it stuck in my head for the rest of the night. Kelly twirled to it (she’s a classic rock fan), until Peter dragged us away.

He managed to get into the special Hollywood exhibit by the competition section just before the fair closed. I spotted a booth with awful cheesy sci-fi movies and hoped dearly that Peter wouldn’t see them. But he did. He was delighted to meet the maker of Hardware Wars, Ernie Fosselius, in person, and to his credit, Fosselius even charmed my children with some of the silly puns from the movie. Peter snatched up Hardware Wars on DVD, which I think of as what Star Wars would have looked like if it had been produced by the BBC. And then…Peter met Mr. Lobo, a late night bad-movie-show TV host. Mr. Lobo sold Peter his broadcast of Starcrash, a truly bad incredibly low-budget science fiction movie with David Hasselhoff in one of his first roles. Mr. Lobo’s imaginative, no-budget intersticial story (included) had a better plot and character development.

The fair supposedly closed at 10, but Peter stayed in hobnobbing with Ernie Fosselius and Mr. Lobo, and buying movie memoribilia for another 1/2 hour. And when we left, we walked through the midway, which was bustling with activity. It was exhausting, and a long day, and both Kelly and I managed to sleep sitting up while Peter drove home. It’s just too bad the State Fair is 2-1/2 hours away, or we’d probably be visiting it more frequently (and pacing ourselves better) over its 3-week run.

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