Whenever I go to the Ventura County Fair – happy and irresponsible along the beach –
there are several things I look forward to.
There is the food. When you enter the grounds you walk down a straight, delirious path between vendors selling shards of meat, vegetables and sweets ready at to be fried at your bidding. I sigh happily at the thought of the countless vats of boiling oil waiting to engulf and transform these items into clogging, beatific deliciousness. Boyfriend had a funnel cake the size of Vesuvius for breakfast.
However, I stay away from fried foods. Against my will, but it is so. It fuels my bitterness and strengthens my hate, but still, I don’t eat The Fried. Weight-watching and the Fair remind me of siblings that will always fight at the table for Meal Supremacy. As a matter of fact, I was probably the only person that day who went searching for a low-fat cappuccino. (but I found it!)
I also anticipate a very pretty day: the Ventura County Fair always provides stupendous weather for its attendees. It isn’t inland, where other fairs spend their summer weeks huddled in a pocket of humidity. We – Father, Boyfriend and Aubrey – had left early, and when we arrived the marine layer was still asleep on the horizon, and it had just stopped raining. Later that day, as we sat at the Morgan Arena watching the horse-and-carriage competition I saw pelicans and seagulls in the distance, and heard their cries above the hooves and the drivers’ hushed admonitions.
But – since I was a child – it was always the collection of animals that drew me the farthest and strongest. The fair is a barnyard free-for-all, an ark of gentle creatures who have taken time off from serving us in order to be petted, spoken to and admired.
This year we had to arrive early – by 10:30A, to witness the Bunny Costume Contest. I prefer the word ‘witness’ as it seems only suitable when standing in the presence of such an epic competition. You don’t watch bunnies in pigtails and steer horns – you witness, as you would a miracle.
We still arrived too late for the judging. There were only two bunnies left – a cowgirl (2nd place) and a longhorn steer (4th place).
I was photographing them, when a woman approached me. I assumed she was going to ask me to move – as I usually do when anyone approaches me. However, what she did was identify herself and the newspaper she worked with, and proceeded to ask my opinions of the competition. You can read them here. (warning: should you do so, you will also learn my real name – keep in mind that my first name is misspelled)
Afterwards we walked through the Bunny Barn:
We saw sheep and goats. More than one goat, dissatisfied with the feed in its pen, reared up and scanned the crowds for something more interesting.
I took an unfocused photo of Kahlua, the miniature Sicilian donkey:
And there was the All-Alaskan Pig Racing. We took our seats – early – and waited. For the pageantry, the color, the thundering of porcine feet, the tiny coiled tails sailing over blue hurdles.
Bacon might be thrilling on your plate – but it’s nothing compared to it racing around the final turn and heading for the homestretch.
We progressed to the horses and found the draft and carriage competitions. Ponies pulling shining carriages –
draft horses, their tails braided with lovely complexity, wrapped in thick harnesses loud with silver decorations. We were fortunate to watch a riding competition too – Frisian horses, the knight’s choice – with the competitors riding either English or Western, as they chose. One girl even rode side-saddle, and I had to say (to myself) ‘girl, you had better WORK that late-Victorian fierceness!’
We walked between the stables, looking for a tolerant-looking animal. I love the Clydesdales – their faces are so noble and bonny – and found one which didn’t hate me too much. I spoke to it, and saw its ears flickering forward, listening to my idiocy. Their noses are like gray velvet.
There was even a ‘Butterfly Experience’ – a pretty wander amongst Monarchs and Painted Ladies. We took Q-tips, dipped them in plates of nectar, and offered the saturated drinks to whatever butterflies happened by. One Lady rode on my hat for the duration of my stay. I noticed that some butterflies were fluttering helplessly on the ground, unable to take flight. I asked a helper about this and was informed that they had ‘had too much’ and would have to be taken to ‘motels’ in order to dry out. I felt sad about debauching such dainty creatures.
Our stay at the fair is usually quite sizeable: this time I would say about 10A – 5P. We were tired, dusty, smelling like a barn – and thoroughly delighted.