Craving some deep-fried, Sodexho-free food, I Metrolink-ed my way to the Fairplex grounds Saturday afternoon just in time for the final week of the famous L.A. County Fair. Essentially a jetliner-sized parking lot crammed with noise, cloying aromas, and makeshift booths, the fair draws a colorful crowd from across California—my spibling and me among them.
Proper fair-going etiquette dictated that I take an objective survey of the various vendors before making an educated assessment of what foods would most satisfyingly fill my stomach. I had, of course, primed myself for the afternoon by fasting all morning. What I had not anticipated, however, was the considerable spread of the fairgrounds. A full 35 minutes was required to explore the dining options, my hunger brooding as I passed sign after sign advertising would-be nourishment.
My evening officially began with a steaming sausage sandwich that I discriminatingly selected from among the abundance of tostadas, turkey legs, and burgers. Perhaps the decision was a subconscious tribute to my concurrent county festival back east—which, of course, is an Italian-American-themed shindig in New Jersey. Regardless, the non-dining hall-reminiscent flavor was much appreciated (though not the $8.50 non-dining hall-reminiscent price).
After the sausage, I perused all the Fair’s cuisine, which ranged from fried peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to frog legs to hand-dipped ice cream bars. My favorite of the night was Mexican fried iced cream covered in hot fudge and cinnamon sugar. Pretty much anything conceivable that you would (or wouldn’t) want dunked in batter and cooked in hot oil was available for purchase at the fair. That and a fair number of mops, rust removers, and flat screen TVs (to be clear, those weren’t deep-fried, just for sale).
By the end of the evening, I had finished off three new $20 bills, which was especially surprising for me as a self-proclaimed and often accused frugal spender. Admission took $10 off the top (with the ASPC discount) plus $7.50 for the Metrolink. Rides cost almost $5 each, priced so that after a brief trip around the Ferris wheel (which, I admit, granted an incredible view of the fairgrounds), I had two tickets left over – not enough to afford even a half-trip through the house of mirrors.
For recreation on a budget, the fair is definitely not the ideal destination, unless you take a detour to the nearest McDonald’s beforehand and limit your in-fair entertainment to people-watching. Besides the few clichéd stage shows and a solitary flower garden, most attractions ask an entrance fee, and the main attraction—the deep-fried, sugar-coated, grease-dripping food—costs enough to put a down payment on your health insurance premium (or so it would seem).
Despite the expenditures, it was an afternoon well spent, although it’s debatable whether the afternoon would have been better spent writing that Spanish paper. I departed with a refreshing berry tea smoothie in hand and a free pen courtesy of the bad-mannered Metrolink man, stomach full, wallet empty, and reasonably content.