LA County Fair 2022: Celebrity names, monster selfies and UFO quilts

A few highlights from the 2022 L.A. County Fair, which in recent years began in time for Labor Day but this year, after the move to May, is ending on Memorial Day:

• Pink’s Hot Dogs is, as you may know, a Hollywood stand dating to 1939 that typically has a very long line. (For all I know some original patrons are still waiting for their order.) I like going to one of the Pink’s stands at the fair, where I can order within moments.

I ordered my usual, a chili dog with mustard, onions and sauerkraut. A small buzzer was handed to me.

It took a minute to register that a Pink’s fair tradition, a laminated card with a celebrity name to be called when your order was ready, had come to an end.

At various points over the years I have been “Tom Hanks,” “Mel Gibson,” “Matt Damon” or “Gerard Butler.” This year I was merely “bzzzz.”

• As I was finishing my dog, a stranger who was obviously familiar with the Hollywood Pink’s came over to ask, “Is it as good as the original?” I shrugged and said, “It’s closer.”

He got in line.

• “100 Years of Monsters” is a free, mildly fun section of Expo Hall 9. You can pose for selfies with life-size figures from classic horror movies, from perennials like Dracula and Frankenstein to Freddy Kruger and Jason Voorhees.

I saw people stand, arms crossed over their chest, next to the Mummy, and a woman pretend to cower under Leatherface’s chainsaw.

In the “Halloween” setup, you could mug with Michael Myers, Laurie Strode or rumpled psychiatrist Dr. Loomis. Could you get a selfie out of pretending to tell him your troubles?

• The sprawling Garden Railroad model train layout always has a downtown Pomona scene, with small-scale representations of the Courthouse, Masonic Lodge, Fox Theater and other buildings. What I believe is a relatively recent touch: a small King Kong, halfway up a climb of the Fox tower.

• If you want to celebrate the fair’s centennial, make a beeline for the Flower and Garden Pavilion — pun intended — for its delightful look at past horticultural and home design shows.

When you walk in, you’re greeted by a throwback display of oranges in decorated wooden crates and by an anniversary mural fashioned from oranges, lemons and limes. It’s a nod to the prewar version of the fair with its charming, slightly silly tributes to our agricultural bounty.

A mural outside the Millard Sheets Art Center features iconic elements of the LA County Fair's first century. (Photo by David Allen, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin/SCNG)
A mural outside the Millard Sheets Art Center features iconic elements of the LA County Fair’s first century. (Photo by David Allen, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin/SCNG)

The Millard Sheets Art Center has a mural of historic scenes on its north wall and vintage memorabilia inside. Its slightly edgy exhibit is about the underbelly of fair history. It focuses on ethnic groups that were once marginalized or fetishized, such as in the 1950s Indian Village attraction, where artisans were touted as being “in costume.”

Also in the center is a freestanding numeral “100,” about six feet tall, designed for selfies. Poke your head through the hole in a zero and give a thumb’s up for posterity.

Overall, though, the fair didn’t capitalize on its anniversary to the extent you might have wished. Or, at any rate, that I might have wished.

• A food stand is named Garlicky’s. As a fan of garlic, I scanned the menu with interest. Garlic dog. Garlic fries. Garlic stuffed sausage. And: Hawaiian pizza. Say what?

Pineapple does not belong on a pizza. Particularly at a stand named Garlicky’s.

• Tucked under the Grandstand, the Home Arts area, where people have entered their sewing, art or food for judging, is a favorite of mine. It’s low-key, slightly wacky and a link to the old days when the community was more involved.

The winners in the photography show stood out for me because of the range of cities the entries hailed from. The most distant were Venice, Woodland Hills, Irvine, Lake Elsinore and Beaumont, with many points in between. A couple of entries were even from Pomona.

In the canning case, jars of preserves, jams, marmalades, pickles, butters and more were lined up on shelves. Entries by Desiree Hickam of Pomona and Francine Rippy of Hacienda Heights dominated. My casual count showed Rippy with 41 ribbons and Hickam with 39. Their kitchens must be whirlwinds of activity.

In the Home Arts area of the LA County Fair, this
In the Home Arts area of the LA County Fair, this “giant decorated cookie” by Jeanie Lindblade pays tribute to the fair’s centennial. (Photo by David Allen, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin/SCNG)

Quilts that caught my eye: one of country music album covers from George Strait, Clay Walker and Travis Tritt by Carole Young of Azusa; one titled “UFOs Are Here” by Susan Huntzinger of Paramount; and a beautiful one for Dia de los Muertos of a skeleton in flower-bedecked hat and skirt by Claudia Espinoza of Whittier.

My life would be poorer without having seen the cross stitch by Erica Lee of Torrance, “Henry VIII and his Wives,” each rendered almost like a Funko figure. Or the tabletop model by Brett Pevey of Glendora of the Cleveland Guardians’ Progressive Field, where the miniature electronic billboard bears the game-ending message “Cleveland Wins!”

Adding to the air of victory, Pevey won a blue ribbon. And I don’t mean Pabst.

• The tablescaping competition, with tables decorated as if for a dinner party, is always a hoot thanks to wildly impractical themes.

One entry is keyed to NASA’s Apollo program. The tablecloth resembles the moon’s surface and the menu includes “pigs in a space blanket” and “sweet tea of tranquility.” The entry’s title: “Houston, We Have a Picnic.”

Another entry is themed for the pandemic and titled “Party of One, 2020: All By Myself.” It’s decorated with stacked rolls of toilet paper, Clorox wipes, hand sanitizer, a game of solitaire, a jigsaw puzzle, a pile of books that includes “The Winter of Our Discontent” and “A Long Day’s Journey Into Night,” and an hourglass labeled “Could life go any slower?”

A judge’s comment: “Captures the last two years of real life. Not sure if that is positive or negative!”


Rock photographer Henry Diltz will show slides of his work and narrate them in a retrospective show at Mount San Antonio College at 7 p.m. Wednesday, June 1. “Rear View Mirror” is likely to include images of Joni Mitchell, Jimi Hendrix, Neil Young and the Woodstock Festival, as well as his album covers for the Doors’ “Morrison Hotel” and Crosby, Stills and Nash’s first album. The event in Building 10’s Founders Hall is free, man.

David Allen writes Sunday, Wednesday and Friday, man. Email, phone 909-483-9339, like davidallencolumnist on Facebook and follow @davidallen909 on Twitter.