If you met a stranger on the street that admitted she went to the OC Fair every day it was open, you would probably smile and slowly back away. I’m here to defend the Fair addicts, the Super Pass holders, and the loyalists that just can’t get enough of the OC Fair.

As a member of the Board of Directors of the OC Fair, I could pretend that I have to be at the OC Fair everyday. In reality, I love being an ambassador for the fair. For a month, I spend my summer days combing the fair end to end. I get to indulge my secret fantasy of becoming a competitive eater–the female Joey Chesnut. The fair celebrates all of my favorite things: animals (both to pet and to eat), food, rides, wine, live entertainment, art, shopping and people watching. I am sure I will touch on all of these subjects over the next twenty-three days.

This past Friday was opening day. Each year the Board of Directors and staff stand inside the gates before the opening, and soak in the calm before the storm. For an hour, staff and directors greeted the over 35,000 people that came to take advantage of the free admission and parking. After I gave out all my fair swag, I set off on my yearly opening day mission: to find and consume my Fair fare faves.

Orange County Fair & Event Center Board of Directors
Orange County Fair & Event Center Board of Directors

Here’s a Clown Selfie for all my coulraphobic friends.

My mission, which I made up so I clearly accept, was a solitary one. There was no friends to explain myself to, or kids attempting to steal my last bites. It was just me and the booths, and I came to play. My first stop was Juicy’s, for the turkey tacos. (If you were ever curious about what happens to all those turkey legs on the grill at the end of the night, they wake up as taco meat). After that starter course, it was time for my blood sugar to catch up to my cholesterol levels. The question of who makes the best cinnamon roll is one that deeply divides the Board of Directors. For me, I head to Country Fair Cinnamon Rolls, near the end of the skylift by the 4-H barn, and get a treat the size of my head. The hot cinnamon roll, covered in cream cheese frosting and walnuts, is the best part of my morning. When asked by the cashier if I “would need 2 or 3 forks,” I laughed and explained today was not a sharing day and one fork would do me just fine. I think she judged me, which is explicitly NOT allowed at the fair.


The next evening was Boston, who jammed at the recently renovated Pacific Amphitheatre. I walked in on the fence, especially after my husband made me a playlist entitled “Boston’s Greatest Hits” that consisted solely of “More than a Feeling” fifteen times in a row. The show was great, but after I was ready for a little snack.

I can confidently say I am the only director on the board that has eaten every single item on Chicken Charlie’s menu. It took me four years, and it is an accomplishment I am proud of. I even ate the bacon-wrapped pickles, and I HATE pickles. Like, would not cross the street with a bucket of water if a pickle was in a fiery crash. The problem is, every year they are adding new items. In order to maintain my OC Fair street cred, I tried the first of the new options: Fried chicken in a waffle on a stick. In my expert opinion, it is better to have the items separate. Do not get lured into the “Oh my gosh, it is on a STICK” game. I was lucky enough to have my dear friend Monika with me, who, besides going on the Tilt-a-Whirl with me, decided to buy some fresh corn. Nothing saves an evening like grilled corn.


Sunday was a special night for several reasons. The first was that my supportive spouse, Michael Penn, decided to leave the house for the first time since breaking up with his appendix. He hobbled to the fair so we could take in the Psychedelic Furs show. Before the main performance, 80s deejay legend Richard Blade spun records (to keep it real, I think he pushed buttons on a MacBook) and quizzed the crowd on famous songs from 80s classics. This leads to the other highlight. Backstage, I asked Mr. Blade about a particular David Bowie song “Putting Out the Fire.” He told me it was from a 1982 flick “Cat People.” I failed that quiz. I remarked if he had played any song from Valley Girl, I would have owned that question. To my surprise, he grabbed my hand and walked me over to a beautiful woman and asked me to repeat what I just said. Halfway through my sentence, I realized the woman was Deborah Foreman, the star of Valley Girl.

Now who doesn’t just love the OC Fair?


Ashleigh Aitken is a plaintiff trial lawyer at Aitken Aitken Cohn in Santa Ana.  Ashleigh was appointed to the OC Fair Board in 2012 and reappointed in 2016. After incessantly speaking about the Fair and reciting random Fair facts, her brother dubbed her the Queen of the Fair.

Editors Note: Ashleigh Aitken is the daughter of Wylie Aitken, Voice of OC’s board chairman and a donor to the organization.

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