With nearly 100 concessions and some outrageous new foods, visitors to the OC Fair should have plenty to snack on this summer.
The fair opens Friday, July 15 at the OC Fair & Events Center in Costa Mesa. It runs through Sunday, Aug. 14.
Vendors are anxious to satisfy fairgoers, said Dominic Palmieri, who will have several booths on the fairgrounds.
“The No. 1 reason people come to a fair is to eat. And so we’re going to give them a great experience and make it memorable. We’re going to want them to come back for more,” Palmieri said.
Palmieri and other vendors see a pent-up demand for fairs in California after more than two years of disruptions due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.
Orange County was the first major fair in Southern California to come back after lockdowns, doing a full-pledged fair in 2021 while San Diego and Los Angeles counties did scaled-down events.
Business was great, said Gigi Horowitz of Mom’s Bakeshoppe. based in Orange County. She is hoping 2022 does as well and is bringing back last year’s hits: a 50/50 Brownie, which is half chocolate chip cookie and covered in frosting, and a 50/50 Brownie parfait, which is served in a cup with Bavarian cream.
Her booth, however, might look a little different this year.
“This is a little political,” she said last week at one of her locations in the San Diego County Fair, pointing to a string of sunflowers on the counter and a blue-and-yellow flag. “It’s a tribute to Ukraine.”
Fair vendors can’t entirely shut out the world. They’re dealing with rising food costs and labor shortages, which Palmieri said leads to overtime expenses.
Those challenges make it harder to create foods, he said. But he and other vendors are bringing several new items to the fair.
Some of them were served at the LA County Fair, which for the first time moved up its run dates from September to May.
Vendors are tweaking their menus to give Costa Mesa something a little different.
Ten Pound Buns, which makes garlic bread with really large slices of sourdough, will have two menu additions: Flame Eater, which tops the toast with Flamin’ Hot Cheetos, and OC Deluxe Avocado Toast, a revival of an old favorite from earlier fairs. Owner Schuyler MacPherson described it as vegan.
Palmieri, whose concessions include Biggy’s, has been experimenting with Cap’n Crunch breakfast cereal, specifically the kind with multi-colored Crunch Berries. He uses it to top chicken sandwiches and a funnel cake served at Dutchmen’s Funnel Cakes.
Chicken sandwiches are a trend this year. Biggy’s has a Nashville chicken sandwich and a Cheetos-coated chicken sandwich in addition to the Cap’n Crunch.
Charlie Boghosian, of Chicken Charlie’s, created a Kool-Aid Chicken Sandwich, coating the chicken breast with syrup made from cherry-flavored Kool-Aid. he serves with a whole pickle on top. He is also serving Kool-Aid in souvenir cups.
Chicken Charlie’s is bringing back several favorites from years past, including a Krispy Kreme Donut Triple Cheeseburger, Fried Oreos and Bacon Wrapped Chicken Legs, as well as his pineapple bowls stuffed with chicken and shrimp.
In addition to attention-grabbing new items, vendors will be serving a wide range of fair favorites, everything from corn dogs, pizza and turkey legs to loaded fries, nachos and corn cups. Sweets will include kettle corn, caramel apples and Dole Whip.
Consumers can get a discount on many of those foods 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Thursdays. That’s when each vendor at the fair will be offering one sample item for $4.
Where: 88 Fair Drive, Costa Mesa
When: Friday, July 15 through Sunday, Aug. 14
Hours: 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday; 11 a.m.-midnight Friday through Sunday
Tickets: $12 Wednesday and Thursday; $14 Friday through Sunday; $7 for seniors 60 and older and children 6-12. Advance ticket purchase is required.
Parking: $10; $20 for limos and buses.