LA County Fair stories are at last collected into a book – Daily News

The LA County Fair is a beloved event, but somewhat ephemeral. It’s around for four weeks or so, then the tents are struck, the rides are dismantled, the deep-fat fryers are hosed down and that’s it until next year.

It draws 1 million visitors and for many it’s a tradition. And yet people are not as obsessed with it as Disneyland. No amateur websites or books breathlessly chart changes, or rumors of changes, or document its past.

In 100 years, in fact, there’s never been a book about the fair. Until now.

That would be my own title: “100 Years of the Los Angeles County Fair, 25 Years of Stories.” It’s a collection of everything I’ve written about the fair over the past, gulp, quarter century. (Where did the time go?)

It’s my fourth book via Upland-based publisher Pelekinesis, all collecting past columns, and was released May 1.

By happy circumstance, that day I was emcee of the Pomona Concert Band’s 75th anniversary concert. Were you there? More than 250 people were seated happily on benches or the lawn of Ganesha Park on a sunny Sunday afternoon, listening to the band and putting up with my dopey comments between songs.

I was allowed to announce the availability of my book. It didn’t hurt that it’s about Pomona. Afterward, people lined up for a copy, with reader Helen Young nabbing the very first. Tim and Carol Hite bought four, one for themselves and three for friends. It was an encouraging start.

Before I could lower myself to plug my book here, KPCC-FM scooped me. A producer for “Air Talk” contacted me Thursday to ask if I’d be a guest on the show later that morning for a segment for the fair’s opening day.

Host Larry Mantle, it turns out, is a fan of the fair, and we chatted lightly about its history and its move from September to May. He says he can barely be torn away from the demonstrations of miracle products.

And he took listener calls, including from “Claudia,” a longtime docent at the Millard Sheets Art Center. I instantly recognized the voice of my friend Claudia Lennear, the soul singer and former Ikette who lives in Pomona. Afterward she phoned to tell me she was so delighted to hear me on the radio that she had to chime in.

So being on “Air Talk” was a great experience all around. And I thank Larry for mentioning the title of my book four times while plugging my role as your columnist just as often.

Now, about my book. I’ve been attending the fair almost as long as I’ve been with the newspaper and haven’t missed a year. I even went for a tour in 2020 when the fair did not take place.

Talk about dedication: I’ll attend the fair even if there’s no fair to see.

And every year I’ve written about the fair. It’s hard to say which Pomona institution I like better: the county fair or the City Council.

Yes, the fair is corny, it’s cheesy, it’s corn with cheese on it. I like to flatter myself that I’m an urban sophisticate. But this former Midwesterner always gets a kick out of the county fair.

A couple of years ago, as the fair’s centennial approached, it occurred to me that I might have written enough about the fair to fill a book. During the pandemic, putting a book together was the last of my concerns, but 2022 still seemed like a good target.

When the fair shifted from September to May, I had to shift into high gear. We got this book together in a few weeks to have it ready for the 100th fair.

Having attended for 25 years, give or take, is small potatoes in the scheme of things. Reader Doris Platt tells me she’s been going annually since 1955. Still, one-fourth of the fair’s 100 years isn’t anything.

And it turns out that while the fair has been included in the histories of Pomona, it’s never been the focus of a book, fair officials confirm. How about that!

Of course you can order the book from Amazon, Barnes and Noble and other booksellers. A few events are on the docket where you can get one from me personally ($ 22).

• First there’s the Upland Kiwanis at 7 am Wednesday; that’s more of a private affair, but if you belong to Kiwanis, join us.

• I’ll be at the fair itself – tingle! – from noon to 2 pm May 14 on the shady patio by the Millard Sheets Art Center, selling and signing books. Miguel Santana, the fair’s former CEO, promises to drop by. He’s in the cover photo, riding with me on the Sky Ride.

• I’ll be reading, speaking and taking questions from 2 to 3:30 pm May 15 at cozy independent bookstore Cafe con Libros, 280 W. Second St. in Pomona, then selling and signing books after. Come see me!

• Lastly (so far), I’ll be doing the same from 4 to 5 pm May 18 at the Pomona Public Library, 625 S. Garey Ave. There’s talk of serving either popcorn or funnel cakes for that county fair spirit. But do not pout if you have to settle for store-bought cupcakes.

More events will be announced here as they’re scheduled. If you’d like to host me somewhere, just ask. If I can accommodate you while still meeting column deadlines, I will.

I’ll be curious what parts of our coverage area are interested in the fair. Does Riverside care? I don’t know. Although it was heartening when a friend from Riverside told me her parents always took her as a girl and that they continue to attend.

Hey, it’s the largest county fair in North America by size, and one of the most popular by attendance. Somebody’s going to this thing.

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