Thursday, August 15, 2013

Livin’ the Real Life at the OC Fair

It’s been quiet here on the blog because we’ve been spending lots of time at the OC Fair. Earlier this summer we were asked to be part of the Orange County Fair’s Culinary Art exhibit. Remember last year when I raved about the “There’s No Place Like Home” exhibit building? That’s where we were invited to display our designs! This year’s theme was “Get Real” which included DIY as it relates to food. Since expanding The Sunshine Grove to include Sustainable Sam’s wood planters and gardening consultation it was a perfect event for us to join.
Sustainable Sam and the Sunshine Grove at the OC Fair

We were given our own corner of the OC Promenade with a rustic corrugated metal background and the freedom to build our own display. We’d never built a permanent display, let alone one with so much room. We loved how our wood designs popped off the metal background and we added splashes of color by displaying vintage linens and house ware items from the shop. The biggest challenge was getting  visitors to come into our booth which we solved by pulling our display table out of the booth while we were there to greet fair goers.

After having read Palisades Park I was excited to experience the behind the scene and building of the fair. Nothing was more exciting than to see how the fair came to life so quickly. During the 3 days it took us to set our display up, we saw so much more arriving and being built. Many of the food concessionaires arrived first and then the rides and games were built up around them.

Our first day was a whirlwind because the first hour is free admission on opening day. Last year we were fair goers and took advantage of the free entrance. It was a totally different experience being an exhibitor. Arriving early, making sure everything was in its place and then waiting for the wave of people was exciting. We loved getting to talk to people about gardening, especially those who are already passionate about growing edible gardens. The big conversation piece in our booth was actually a patty pan squash plant that we grew in a grain bag. Since we needed a way to grow, transport and then display the squash for 5 weeks, the grain bag was a wonderful solution, but it also amazed many people that it could be used as a container for gardening.  

Sustainable Sam and the Sunshine Grove at the OC Fair
The Culinary Arts building had a stage for presentations and culinary judging as well as a Make Shop and Show and Tell area. Jeremy braved the stage opening weekend with his DIY Pallet to Planter demo, and hosted a plant your own string beans workshop at the Make Shop. Our friends from TheMakery and Creative Outlet Studio had fun crafts at the Make Shop as well. Since the Show and Tell area was just across from our display I had the opportunity to learn preserving and canning techniques from Master Food Preservers ChefRenee Fontes and Chef Earnest Miller. I even got to take home some grape jelly from Chef Renee which was delicious. 

Sustainable Sam and the Sunshine Grove at the OC Fair
Did we mention our ribbons?

Don’t worry; I made time to visit the Alaskan Pig Races, as well as the newborn piglets at Centennial Farms. As always visiting the animals was high on my to-do list, especially the angora goats – my personal favorite! We also made sure to participate in Anaheim Day by wearing shirts showing off our city pride. I should also add that we were on our best behavior when it came to the notorious food, though we did enjoy petite funnel cakes during the one of the Friday “Taste of the Fair” events and giant corn dogs on the final day.

As fast as it was set up, the fair was torn down. Three days after the final day the grounds are almost empty again, as if nothing happened. As we drove away with the last pieces of our display yesterday we said goodbye to the fair and can only cross our fingers that we are invited to participate again next year. A big thank you goes out to Chef Renee Fontes along with the rest of the Culinary Arts staff, all of whom were amazing and helpful.