The much anticipated return of the Orange County Fair is here, with gates opening on Friday at 11 a.m.
Preceded by an Opening Morning celebration, select guests were treated to several of the event's rides, previews of the food selection and performances from local groups.
This year's fair features more than 30 rides and games, dozens of food options including fan favorites like funnel cake, kettle corn and turkey legs, and a wide array of exhibits and areas where you can interact with a number of animals.
CBS reporter Kara Finnstrom was among the few that got to experience parts of the fair before the gates opened to the public, sampling the Cinnamon Toast Crunch breakfast rolls and Australian battered potatoes, watching performances from local cheerleading group The Dolphinettes and a mariachi band and meeting several of the dozens of animals on hand, including goats and llamas.
"A lot of people don't have that opportunity to grow up on a farm or a ranch anymore, you know, we're here in the city living our lives, just to be able to have an experience with animals," said Sarah Roitsch, who works with the Great American Petting Zoo.
Along with all of this, fairgoers will be treated to live music daily, with performances from the likes of R&B legends Kool & the Gang and the Family Stone kicking off Opening Day on Friday.
Additional live performances include Boy George and Culture Club, the Psychedelic Furs and comedian Trevor Noah.
Following suit from a successful return in 2021, when fair officials opted to cap attendance, they said they planned on doing much of the same this time around.
"I don't think we'll ever go back to unlimited attendance," OC Fair CEO Michele Richards told City News Service. "We're doing the same thing."
Last year, the fair drew in just under 1.1 million attendees, a noted difference from years past when an average of 1.3 million people made their way to the fairgrounds in Costa Mesa. 17 out of 23 days were sold out in 2021.
"We had such a great experience last year controlling our attendance," Richards said. "It was an excellent customer experience for our guests to have more elbow room, much smaller lines. It was just a much, much better experience, and it was a great experience for our neighbors because we were not throwing as much traffic congestion and noise in surrounding neighborhoods."
The 23-day fair, closed on Mondays and Tuesdays, continues until August 14.
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