The Ferris wheel at the Orange County Fair in Costa Mesa, California.

Carnival rides, live bands and exhibits of all kinds draw area residents and visitors alike to the Orange County Fair in Costa Mesa. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

The annual Orange County Fair is going on now through Aug. 14. Here are seven things to do at the fair and some tips on how to save on admission and parking.

More than 1.3 million people attend the annual Orange County Fair in Costa Mesa, which is more than a third of the total population of the county. Last year, the fair made more than $23.1 million in sales. There’s plenty to do at the fair, from animal exhibits to concerts to edible creations. Here are seven things not to miss.

  1. Check Out the We Are One Exhibit

Projection mapping permits irregularly shaped objects to be transformed into a display surface for video projection. Visitors to the Orange County Fair will be able to experience this technology at the We are One exhibit, designed by creative and technical director John Mastri. On any day during the fair, stop by the Visual Arts Building to step into the four-sided area, where the faces of you and everyone else in the building will be turned to a video.

  1. Try the Culinary Quiz Game

How much do you really know about the food you eat every day? Find out on Wednesday, Aug. 10 at 7 p.m., when the fair will feature the culinary quiz, also known as “Who Wants to be a MEALionaire!”

  1. Food Competitions: Have Your Tasty Confections Judged

Think you’re a good cook? Enter your edible creations into competition at three culinary contests. Professionals will assess local dishes made from spam on Saturday, July 30, at 1 p.m.; salads, dips and spreads on Saturday, Aug. 6 at 1 p.m.; and eats in which honey is the only sweetener on Saturday, Aug. 12 at 7 p.m.  Don’t forget to bring your appetite.

  1. Check out Agricultural Exhibitions

It’s how the Orange County Fair started 125 years ago. Centennial Farm, open year-round, will have its usual array of farm animals, but there will also be beekeepers, livestock shows and animal demonstrations, such as cow milking. There is even pig racing each day and a turkey stampede from Aug. 10 to 14.

A group of motorcyclists prepare for evening stunts at the Orange County Fair in Southern California.

Daredevils on motorbikes opened the Action Sports Arena for the 2016 fair on July 15. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

  1. Take In Action Sports

Love adventure? Then head to the Action Sports Arena each evening during the fair for motorsports, martial arts, extreme rodeo and demolition derby events. A full schedule is available online.

  1. Run the 5K Fun Run

OK, maybe you aren’t as good as a gold medalist. But in honor of the Olympics this year, enjoy fun and exercise at the 5K Fun Run at the fair on Sunday, Aug. 7, at 8 a.m. Participants will receive a commemorative finisher’s medal, a race T-shirt and one-time free entry to the fair during its last week in August. Register online.

  1. Buy a $125 Twinkie

That’s not a joke. In honor of the fair’s 125th anniversary, caviar-covered Twinkies come to us courtesy of San Diego barbeque house Chicken Charlie’s. Proceeds go to the Children’s Hospital of Orange County. But don’t let the price tag scare you – an incredibly diverse array of food options start from as little as $2.

White turkeys on a farm.

Turkeys such as these will stampede each day during the last week of the fair in August. In the heat of midsummer, it is a good reminder that the holidays aren’t that far away. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

Regular admission to the fair is $12 for adults, $7 for seniors over age 60 and $7 for children 12 and under. Parking is $10. You will have to pay extra for most of the rides and activities.

How to Save Money at the Orange County Fair

  • Print your own tickets instead of going to the box office to avoid a service fee.
  • Did you go to the San Diego or Ventura County fairs? If so, bring your old ticket stub for free admission to the Orange County Fair on any day.
  • Participate in We Care Wednesday. Get free admission to the fair and one free carnival ride by donating five cans of food on July 20; three new or gently used children’s books on July 27; on Aug. 3, give five new or gently used clothing items; or donate school supplies valued at $5 or more on Aug. 10.
  • Have you served in the military? Then you can get into the fair for free. Military ID is required.
  • Go on a Friday afternoon, when carnival rides are only $2 each from noon to 4 p.m.
  • Park offsite. On weekends, park at the Experian parking lot (located off the Bristol Street exit of the I-405 Freeway) and take a free shuttle, which runs from 10 a.m. to 1 a.m., to and from the fair.

For more on the fair, which is open Wednesday through Friday from noon to midnight and weekends from 10 a.m. to midnight, visit the fair website. A map of the fairgrounds is also available online.

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