I've lived in Orange for the better part of the last six years and have successfully managed to avoid the Orange International Street Fair every Labor Day weekend. As someone with an aversion to crowds and most things fair and/or festival-like (read: mild claustrophobia), being a part of a huge (mostly drunk) crowd packed into a square mile of fried foods, booze, arts and crafts, and a cacophony of ethnic music seemed like a nightmare.
When I lived in Old Towne Orange (a couple of blocks away from fair's epicenter in the The Orange Circle), I used to put myself on house arrest during Labor Day weekend and opt to watch the parking nightmare, march of the drunkards, and involuntary-front-lawn-and-gutter-barf-exhibits unfold from the quiet refuge of my living room. It seemed like a wise move at the time.
I moved to the other side of the 55 Freeway a little over a year ago, and I think the combination of not being stuck smack dab in the middle of the nightmare on Glassell, a momentary lapse in fair-fearing wussiness, and a dash of curiosity got the best of me this year. Breaking my six year streak of Street Fair avoidance, the lady and I decided to take a few hours on Sunday afternoon to go check out what I'd been missing.
If you're a fan of permutations of fried dough or enjoy a variety of whipped animal parts encased in the intestines of farm animals, the Street Fair is your Mecca. They're both everywhere. I tend shy away from the former, but wholly appreciate the latter (much to the dismay of my waistline), so on a trip down German Street, the lady and I decided to snag a bratwurst smothered in sauerkraut and spicy brown mustard from the folks at the
It seemed that our only options were Bud Light, Bud Light, Bud Light, or "imports" owned by Anheuser Busch. (Note: it seemed that way because Bud Light was an official sponsor of the fair.) We needed something to wash down those wonderful brats with, and thankfully,
In a word; drunk. Most of them, anyways. Some wore viking helmets, some fell off curbs, some barfed in gutters, and some wore t-shirts that you'd see in the window of a novelty shop, e.g., "Kiss My Country Ass", "Save A Horse, Ride A Cowboy", or "Orgasm Donor" and think, "Who the hell buys this crap?". The answer was clear. THAT woman. THAT woman. And THAT dude. Bravo, folks. When you're not sure if your actions speak for themselves, you might as well broadcast your idiocy via a large front print on a t-shirt.
There were people selling wands for money. Wands. Even magicians have moved past using wands at this point. There were people selling novelty tees for babies, because when your child is unable to speak for itself, it's a good idea to swaddle him or her in bad jokes. And there were people selling pencil sketches of icons (Bob Marley, Charlie Chaplin, & Jim Morrison) that you've literally seen at EVERY FESTIVAL AND FAIR THAT YOU'VE EVER BEEN TO IN YOUR LIFE.
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There were also a lot of folks just standing around, gently swaying in the breeze, eyes half-closed but glazed over. Waiting for something. Anything perhaps. I saw a couple of older fellows that just stood there, staring at nothing particular, slowly rocking back and forth, and if you'd told me that they'd been there, in that exact spot for three days and were waiting for some kind soul to put them on a dolly and wheel them to a holding tank, I might've believed you.
All in all, the Street Fair was much more enjoyable than I thought it would be, pre-conceived notions be damned. I'm still not sure that you could convince me to go there after dark, when some folks are ten-plus beers deep, or the local hipster crews emerge from drinking their PBR's to mingle with the commoners, or when the Chapman kids get done doing keg stands and want to blow off some first-semester steam in front of a crowd, or when the moto-bros from the 909 (or HB or Costa Mesa) decide that it's time to descend upon Orange County like a cast of flat-billed, high-socked, Dickies-wearing vultures. I'll take my Street Fair in small mid-day doses, and I'll definitely be back next year.