Reporter's Notebook: Bigger animals, worse odds

Crime reporter tries out some fair games and is humbled more than once.

July 31, 2010|By Joseph Serna,
(Kent Treptow )

COSTA MESA — Like the flashing lights of Las Vegas, those bright booths with giant stuffed animals, basketball jerseys and various other pointless prizes at the Orange County Fair have a way of luring people in to gamble.

That's what it essentially breaks down to in some of those carnival games. How else to explain spending $5, $10, or even $20 to repeatedly trying to toss a ring over a Coke bottle neck, or a ping pong ball into a moving glass bowl four feet away?

It feels like on the most difficult games, it's not about technique or skill as much about luck. Or maybe my ego is just bruised because it took about 30 tries for me to get a ping pong ball into the floating bowl while it took an elementary school-aged girl maybe 10 tries.

No matter how many tickets it costs, if you win though, it can seem to make the whole effort worth it. Especially if you're winning it for a wife, girlfriend or son or daughter. Sure, your wallet's a little lighter. But how cool is that human-sized stuffed monkey!


"Just look at the size of the prize to see how difficult the game is," recommended Steve Charleston, concessions director for Ray Cammack Shows, which runs all the booth games at the fair. "At some games you spend $3 and you win a $45 toy."

Charleston showed me to some of the fair's most popular games, including the ring and ball toss games, the BB machine gun game where have to shoot out the red star and the ball-in-the-basket toss.

My success, or lack thereof, was humbling.

"It's easy, just don't hit the back," carnival worker Tirzo Rochin Franco told me, as he tossed a softball into the back of a tilted plastic bucket, where it stayed.

"Sure," I thought skeptically, my competitive nature coming out after three misses. "You're a foot closer and have a better angle on it."

There is a trick to tossing the ball into that pesky bucket or basket without it bouncing right back out, Franco showed me. Get a little bit low, toss the ball slowly with a high arc so it just catches the front, bottom lip of it and bounces around without coming out. Backspin helps, he said.

On a scale of 1 to 10 in difficulty, I'd have to give it an 8. You can win a medium-sized prize there, but it took me several tries.

Not so with the easiest game in the fair, the balloon popping game with the darts. The prizes there illustrate how easy the game is. I'd give it a 1.

Daily Pilot Articles Daily Pilot Articles