The 2009 Orange County Fair: The Birds and the Beasts Were There

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Jennie Warren

Though this fetching heifer doesnt realize it, shes the reason the Orange County Fair even exists. In the earliest days of our fair land, it wasnecessary for farmers to transport their domesticated beasts into town to sell them. Thats why nearly every fair in America, whether state or county, is located smack-dab in the center of its respective geographic locale.

Today, of course, that role is usually served by a super-sized Wal-Mart.

But at some point, some entrepreneur realized that with so many people gathered to gawk and bid on animals, a few of them might want to get real personal with the animals.

Which leads us to, if not the primary reason why todays Orange County Fair exists, the main reason its possible to exist:

The more the OC Fair has changed, the more its rites and rituals have stayed the same: It's not about Weird Al; it's about weird us. At first glance, the Orange County Fair ain't nothing like yo' grandpappy's county fair. Ratherthan a place where farmers gather to exhibit their livestock and produce, the OC Fair appears dominated by garish carnival rides; equally garish booths hawking everything; and, of course, the scores of booths serving deep-fried, calorie-laden, oh-so-tasty food. But even in its 2009 incarnation, billed as the OC Super Fair with a subtitle of "Think Big," our fair shares links with the most rural and traditional of offerings. Even in the center of the county, it remains a legitimate example of a communitygathering. That is a ritual in and of itself, and there is no end to visual examples of the shared ritual of community at this year's fair. All text by Joel Beers; Photos by Jennie Warren