A Fair’s in Order

By Brittany MenjivarMay 26, 2024

A Fair’s in Order
LOS ANGELES COUNTY FAIR, Pomona, May 3-27, 2024.

Having extensively covered the conventions, fairs, and festivals of the greater Los Angeles area, I sometimes worry that I’m falling into the pattern of listing increasingly bizarre observations until I reach the apex of absurdity. As much as I’d like to avoid redundancy, dear reader, I feel compelled to share the notes I jotted down on my iPhone last Sunday:

Bacon Wrapped Chicken Legs
Totally Fried Avocados
Kool-Aid® in a Baby Bottle
Cheetos® Flamin’ Hot Pot Stickers

It’s no wonder I keep finding myself pulled toward crescendo: Los Angeles is the land of movie magic, Mickey Mouse, and maximalism—everything here is carried out to its most extreme conclusion. Growing up in Maryland, my local county fair sat on 60 acres; the L.A. County Fair spans nearly 600.

When I arrived just after sunset, the carnival area was aglow with an array of mechanical marvels. It is so thrilling to see a ride you have never encountered before, even if it’s not exactly a high-flying thrill ride from a place like Six Flags. What county fair amusements lack in scale, they make up for in innovation. The fair boasted two haunted houses: one with traditional Gothic influences, and one whose airbrushed exterior featured both Chucky from Child’s Play and a flying monkey from The Wizard of Oz. A spinning ride called Rave Wave plunged fairgoers into darkness with a giant tarp as they raced around a track; an alternate version of the ride, this one Arctic-themed, employed a smoke machine. Other contraptions revealed entirely new ways to flip upside down. Strapping myself into seat after seat, soaring over the grounds, I couldn’t help but consider humanity’s age-old propensity for devising methods to get closer to the sky—first there was da Vinci’s flying machine, then there was the Joker 360

I could’ve stayed by the rides forever, but there were further curiosities around the corner. I’m not talking about the food (although I did scarf down some fried Oreos) but the game room housed in an exhibition hall. Outside, an inflatable Grogu held a sign reading, “ESPORTS/VR/COMICS/ANIME/CLAW GAMES/COME IN!” Within, nerds of all stripes sat at clusters of PCs and around tabletop games. Nearby stalls sold everything from Disney-themed pins to Marvel Cinematic Universe fan art to “I love my pit bull” flags. This was the fair’s own miniature Comic Con.

In an attempt to complete my ever-expanding mental map of the premises, I hopped on a ski lift ride. In my precarious position, I meditated on the ephemerality of the scene below me. At the fair back in Maryland, a carny told me that he treasured the ability to live on the road, deconstructing and rebuilding in city after city. From the air, the rides’ collapsible nature was evident, their paneling and wheels apparent. How wondrous that so many people should come together to create a spectacle so great but so fleeting, and that this tradition should repeat itself year after year.

Overwhelmed by all my options, I didn’t make it to the animals, or the crafting competitions, or the concert stages—but I’m not too fazed. Next May, the fair will be back and better than ever. It always is.


Photo by contributor.

LARB Short Takes live event reviews are published in partnership with the nonprofit Online Journalism Project and the Independent Review Crew.

LARB Contributor

Brittany Menjivar was born and raised in the DMV; she now works and plays in the City of Angels. With her partner in crime Erin Satterthwaite, she runs Car Crash Collective, hosting late-night literary readings at Footsies Bar in Los Angeles. Her poetry and fiction have been featured in HADDream Boy Book ClubSpectra, and Dirt Child, among other publications. Additionally, she was named a 2023 Best of the Net Award Finalist. You can stream her short film Fragile.com on YouTube’s ALTER Channel, where it has nearly two million views. You can also find her on Substack: she posts cultural criticism via BRITTPOP, and keeps track of the most exciting events happening in L.A. each week via The Angel Almanac.


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