By Dave Barton
By LP Hastings
By Sarah Bennett
By LP Hastings
By Jena Ardell
By Steve Lowery
By R. Scott Moxley
By Joel Beers
We all know what the real sport is at the Orange County Fair: watching perfectly sane, perfectly responsible members of society transform into perfect swine by shoveling massive amounts of artery-clogging, gut-bursting, impossibly high-caloric food down their gullets.
It truly is great fun—especially when you stop observing and heartily jump into the trough with the rest of them.
But there is far more to sports at the Orange County Fair than the never-ceasing spectacle of the human carnival: tons of games of chance (and a little bit of skill) in the arcade area; Chinese acrobats defying physics through contortions; and an entire venue, the Action Sports Arena, devoted to motorcycles, extreme sports, bull riding and, yes, even mobile-home-demolition derbies (all events in the arena have a separate charge from fair admission).
Opening Day, July 16, marks the 36th Annual Speedway Fair Derby. Speedway—basically stripped-down motorcycles with no brakes that haul ass for four turns around an oval track in races that last less than a minute—is a staple throughout the year at the Fairgrounds, but this is the second-biggest event on its calendar. July 16,8 p.m. $12.50-$17.50.
Bikes get up in the air the next night when the X-treme Freestyle Moto-X returns. It’s freestyle motocross, meaning riders perform tricks and routines on motorcycles hurtling through the air. Some claim it’s as valid a sport as snowboarding or skateboarding. Others claim it’s further proof that humanity is regressing inexorably in terms of common sense. July 17, 8 p.m. $12.50-$17.50.
Three days of rodeo in the arena begin the following Wednesday, but this isn’t the kind of rodeo that used to come calling, old-school professional events that drew protests for more animal-unfriendly fare such as steer-roping and calf-tying. Extreme Rodeo, which debuted at the fair in 2007, features bulls and the people who ride them. Though still dangerous—they’re fucking bulls, fer crissakes!—it’s as comedic as it is harrowing, with movements such as backward bull riding and bull poker, in which contestants try to sit at a folding poker table while a loose bull stomps around them. July 21, 2 & 8 p.m. $12.50.
Thursday is bull riding, put on by Flying U Rodeo of Marysville, California. It’s “open bull riding,” which means it’s not professionally sanctioned, although professionals often compete. July 22, 2 & 8 p.m. $12.50.
The final rodeo day is Fiesta del Charro, which features equestrian, roping skills and agility demonstrations that originated in Mexican- and other Latin American-style bull riding. July 23, 8 p.m. $12.50.
Hulk smash! The Fair’s second weekend marks the return of a genuine OC ritual: The Orange Crush Demolition Derby on Saturday, followed by the return of the Motorhome Madness Demolition Derby, which debuted last year.
As the name implies, both events feature men—and occasionally women—smashing their stripped-down cars into one another. The regular derby is a clusterfuck, with anywhere from 10 to 15 cars crammed into the area. Within 10 minutes, the majority are wheezing, smoking hunks of junk with punctured radiators and smashed-up bodies. The motorhome version features six Class C big-wheelers. They may not go as fast as the station wagons and old sedans in the regular derby, but the capacity crowd last year ate it up and screamed for more. Orange Crush Demolition Derby, July 24, 2 & 8 p.m. $15; Motorhome Madness Demolition Derby, July 25, 7 p.m. $15.
The real deal in terms of sports at this year’s fair is the Maloof Money Cup, basically the biggest event in the world of professional skateboarding (check out the full scope in this issue’s story on major professional-sporting events).
Now, crazy motorcycle drivers and jumpers, dudes who play poker with pissed-off bulls, and human beings who willingly engage in smashing and being smashed in their cars are all great fun. But, really, when it comes to sports at this year’s fair, can anything top what’s happening in the Hangar? It’s a new building devoted most days to tribute bands and performers such as Colin Hay from Men at Work, but on the fair’s final two days, it features freestyle Mexican wrestling: Lucha Libre with El Hijo del Santo and Blue Demon.
Yes, the sport is as colorful, passionate and crazily fun as mexicanos themselves. It may not be Mexico’s national sport—that’s fútbol, of course—but our resident expert, Gustavo Arellano, has described lucha libre as Mexico’s American football: A sport that no one but Mexicans truly get.
The featured wrestlers at the fair’s event are two of the most famous: El Hijo del Santo is the son of the most famous luchador of all—El Santo, the Saint, whose career spanned five decades and who became a folk hero, living legend and symbol of justice for the common man. In his trademark silver mask, the Son of the Saint has forged his own successful career and is considered one of the most proficient luchadores.