PHOTO CREDIT: David Perez
COSTA MESA (CNS) - A nightly dance party, a craft beer showcase and deep- fried Doritos are among what's new this year at the 124th annual Orange County Fair, which kicks off at noon today.
OC Fair Chief Executive Officer Doug Lofstrom, a retired fair executive who took over for the last boss, who bolted for a new job in April of last year, is sticking around for an encore this year, which promises to be his last as Orange County Fair Board members plan to hire a new CEO by year's end.
Lofstrom didn't do too bad for a late-inning pinch-hitter as attendance was 1.3 million, the second highest since the annual attraction started in 1890.
This year's theme is ``Summer Starts Here,'' and the fair will feature its usual mix of 80 percent traditional and 20 percent new attractions, Lofstrom said.
``If we don't mix things up and stay relevant we get tired,'' Lofstrom said, adding fairgoers also expect the old standbys like the All-Alaskan Racing Pigs.
Each night of the fair's 23-day run a nightly dance party will be held where tribute bands perform throughout the day. The attraction, ``Commotion: Feel the Energy,'' will aim for some audience participation, Lofstrom said, adding it will include flash mobs.
Food is usually one of the biggest attractions of the fair, and this year's menu includes deep-fried Doritos and Chicken skins as well as bacon- wrapped churros spiced up with a shot of Jack Daniels, Lofstrom said.
``You think Doritos are already fried, but he does it in a special way,'' Lofstrom said of Chicken Charlie's, which offers the decadent snack.
And fairgoers can knock down that deep-fried delicacy with their share of craft beers with the OC Brew Hee Haw, spearheaded by the folks who throw the annual OC Brew Ha Ha event.
Lofstrom is encouraging fairgoers to take advantage of the Orange County Transportation Authority's weekend shuttle bus service, which can end up saving not only the hassle of finding parking, but also give visitors a break on the cost.
The shuttle, which picks up fairgoers from eight locations throughout the county, costs $2 each way and includes a coupon for admission to the fair for $3.
``That's been growing each year,'' Lofstrom said.
The fair will also feature its nightly concerts at the Pacific Amphitheatre. Orange County Fair Board member Nick Berardino says he's looking forward to seeing Lynyrd Skynyrd. The lineup also features comedian Jeff Foxworthy, original Orange County punk rockers the Offspring and Adolescents, the Go Gos, Ziggy Marley, LeAnn Rimes, and Bad Religion.
``It's truly the last community event that's left in our highly urbanized county,'' Berardino said of the annual fair. ``This is the only event every year where in a highly urbanized county we can all come together from everywhere in the county and celebrate like we did 50 or 60 years ago when it was a rural, agricultural county. That really is, I think, the most important thing.''
PHOTO CREDIT: David Perez