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A fair future in Costa Mesa

August 05, 2004

Where else around here do a 3,500-pound steer, Jessica Simpson, The

Go-Go's, thrill rides and a lot of fried food co-exist for almost a

month of entertainment? Disneyland? Last we checked, no giant,

animatronic horses greet riders of It's A Small World.

That's not a knock on the "Happiest Place on Earth." But there's

something small-town-Americana about a fair that the big theme parks

can't duplicate.

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As we've said before on these pages, the Orange County Fair --

right in our own back yard -- succeeds each year in promoting our

state's agricultural heritage, while entertaining us with quirky and

fun offerings that range from barnyard fashion shows to some hip

concerts at the Pacific Amphitheatre.

Coming off of last year, in which two people were injured on fair

rides, organizers this year focused on promoting more of a family

atmosphere. They added more parking and shaded seating and tables,

began a new janitorial service and continued new efforts like

spontaneous roaming entertainment on the fairgrounds.

Fair Chief Executive Becky Bailey-Findley called this year a "year

of refinement."

It has apparently paid off.

A record 963,850 tickets were sold this year at the 112th Orange

County Fair. Last year -- a year Bailey-Findley called "unsettled"

because of the ride incidents -- the fair welcomed 881,596 visitors.

A successful fair is good for the city and good for residents,

many of whom the fair employs.

"We've been here for over 50 years," Bailey-Findley said. "For

many people, especially in Costa Mesa, the fairgrounds provides their

first job."

People come here for the fair.

Talk has sprung up about the possibility of selling the

state-owned fairgrounds property, what the California Performance

Review released this week calls "surplus" land. Lawmakers will be

looking at the land to see if it should be unloaded and if the fair

should move. The goal is to find money to bolster the state's ailing

finances.

When people think of Costa Mesa, they think of the fair, and we

think it belongs here. Perhaps that's a biased perspective. But just

as the fair celebrates the state's heritage, we feel Costa Mesa is

every bit a part of the fair's heritage.

We hope it's here for a good, long while.

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