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With OC Fair in full swing, a look back at the fun, fried history of county fairs

Families attend the Los Angeles County Fair.
Families attend the Los Angeles County Fair.
Steve Perry/Flickr

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Fried butter? Check. Pig racing? Check. Overpriced carnival games? Check. It must be county fair season.

For the most season fair-goers, that means it’s time to break out your best pie recipe for the pie-making contest or show off your most impressive cattle.  The rest of us just try and find the most bizarre fried food possible. Fried beer, maybe?

County fairs in the US go back 250 years. Back then, they were largely about bringing people together to explore the latest developments in agricultural technology. Now, agriculture plays a big role, but county fairs over time have turned into meccas of entertainment, sideshows, and the famous fried foods.

In Orange County, the fair runs through August 16, then LA’s county fair kicks off September 4th and runs through the 27th.

Do county fairs conjure nostalgic visions of small towns coming together to show off the prized cow, biggest tomato or most delicious jam? Or maybe just dust, heat and funnel cake? Why do you go to county fairs? Love ‘em? Hate ‘em?


Marla Calico, Chief of Operations at the International Association of Fairs and Expositions