Field Trip Friday fell on a Wednesday this week. It isn’t preferable to be “out of school” in the middle of the week. Coming back to Math and Language Arts felt like pure drudgery, even after I made up a fun song about our grammar lesson. (And it’s no small thing to find something that rhymes with “simile”.) But we were taking advantage of Homeschool Days at the L.A County Fair. We attended the Orange County Fair last year and because we can’t afford to do both of anything in the same year out here, we saved L.A. for this summer, knowing it was our last chance.
So, for those of us who have set a high bar for county fairs (and really anything short of what you conjure up in your head while reading Charlotte’s Web is just a night at the carnival and should not rise to the esteemed level of county fair), let’s talk about what the L.A. County Fair does well.
1. Anything life-sized. Life-size condiments, snack foods, books, toys, creepy as hell Halloween characters. I mean, there’s no 1000-pound carved butter sculpture of a remote Amish homestead, but I guess you can’t win em all.
2. Capitalizing on area attractions. Since you can no longer hike anywhere near the Hollywood sign without LAPD tight-circling in their chopper overheard, we thought this was a decent consolation prize. (Fun L.A fact: When LAPD helicopters fly in wide circles, it means they are just checking out the area below, but tight circles mean whatever you are doing, you are so busted. Hide the weed! Oh wait, never mind. You can keep that.) We also could have indulged in a Randy’s Doughnut (which gives me a cavity just thinking about it) and a Pink’s hotdog (minus the 45 minute wait on a heat-trapped downtown sidewalk).
3. The Midway. Filed under, “Y’all are making me smarter,” I just looked up why it’s called a midway. Apparently the term originated with the World’s Colombian Exposition in Chicago in 1893. It became the common noun for the area reserved for amusements at a state or county fair. According to Wikipedia, the Canadians use the same word. Although I’m sure it sounds much nicer when they say it. Anyway, the midway of the L.A. County Fair is more than just mid…it’s like 2/3rds of the party. Not one, but two, Ferris wheels spinning simultaneously. And ride after ride after ride of screeching fun, guaranteed to drop your stomach and bring back up that hot Cheetos-encrusted doughnut turkey leg you just ate.
But we didn’t ride a single thing because it was hot and I’m cheap. Wristbands were $50 and we didn’t drive 75 minutes on 7 different interstates to get closer to the sun. We came to learn about the life cycle of a goat and what a chick looks like when it’s just hatching from the egg.
But that’s where we would be wrong about the L.A. County Fair. Because we didn’t learn about any of those things. We saw brand-spankin’ new, barely walking goats, but no one to ask when they were born or how long it takes them to learn how to walk. We Googled it.
We saw a calf chillin with some sheep, but no one to ask how old cows are when they first start mating and producing milk. We Googled it.
We saw some sheepdog puppies hanging out with the sheep, but no one to ask what their role is in herding or how long it takes for them to learn the skill. We Googled it.
We did watch one cow-milking demonstration and learned that the 3 healthiest dairy foods are yogurt, milk, and cheese (not Blue Bell ice cream, I guess). We also heard the dairy farmer refer to “almond milk” and “oat milk” as “almond juice” and “oat juice”. (He later blamed zealous animal rights activists for the loss of public access to the local dairies. He said that to me privately and I don’t think he’s wrong, but also this is why we can’t have nice things. California is the largest dairy producer in the country and we are hard-pressed to find a cow we can milk this side of Kansas. If they aren’t careful, California kids are going to grow up thinking all straws are supposed to disintegrate in your mouth and their milk hatched in the dairy case overnight).
And we didn’t see any exotic rabbits, roosters, turkeys, chicks straight outta the egg, draft horses, alpacas, sheep being sheared, cattle being hosed down, 4-H high schoolers cuddled with their cows, or baby chicks tumbling down a slide. (OK, to be fair, the animal rights activities probably did away with that one a long time ago.)
This is obviously where the cool kids are every January in Pennsylvania.
This is everything that’s great about the PA Farm Show. And somewhere above their heads, Charlotte is weaving, “SOME PIG.”
But this wasn’t the Pennsylvania Farm Show, where kids from the countryside are competing for blue ribbons in everything from baking to bull-riding. This was, if we are being precise, a city fair plus a petting zoo thrown in for good measure. And it was a perfectly fine petting zoo.
But I paid $36 for 2 cheeseburgers from a food truck, not from the California Cattleman’s Association. And $6 for a root beer float from the Esports Gaming Hall, not the California Dairy Association. Food that was fried, on a stick, between 2 doughnuts, dipped in flaming Cheetos, on the bone, and wrapped in a tortilla. But none of it seemed to be from here. Even the “L.A. Made” section of the expo hall was disappointing and underwhelming. It could have been any county fair anywhere. Where is the Los Angeles pride? One of the most unique cities in the world is hosting the most vanilla fair we’ve ever attended. Los Angeles is so not vanilla. It’s horchata and edamame and dirty chai and Sriracha. Flaming Cheetos? Maybe if they are rolled in guacamole and lit on fire. That’s Los Angeles.
I don’t expect the L.A. County Fair to be the Pennsylvania Farm Show. The Imperial and Central Valleys can’t leave home for a month just to show off their award-winning pigs and heirloom chickens to those high-fallutin’ Hollywood types down in the city. And those 4-H kids are probably hesitant to get any closer to the INS office. But it sure would be nice if someone learned how to carve butter, or put a shade over the garden area so we could learn what squash looks like when it’s shooting off the vine without melting under the Inland Empire sun. And maybe the Cattleman’s Association could set up a grill. I would buy all. the. burgers. And a Dairy Association milkshake to wash it all down.