Arts & Entertainment

LA County Fair: Mac and cheese bites, the Dodger fan coffin, and untrainable sharks

A photo of the Los Angeles County Fair.
A photo of the Los Angeles County Fair.
Omar Omar/Flickr Commons

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Thousands of people in the Southland plan to spend Labor Day weekend at the Los Angeles County Fair in Pomona.

The fair's history reaches back to 1921 when it was little more than a small merchant's exposition along the Southern Pacific Railway in downtown Pomona.

The country didn't have a fair at the time, but businessmen saw the event as an opportunity for investment. It wasn't until Oct. 17, 1922 that the first L.A County fair opened its doors to the public. The fair ran five days.

The fair has long been a place to set trends and test innovations; and 1951 the fair featured the world's largest man-made ski jump. The slope used artificial snow and towered 225 feet high and 500 feet long. In 1957 Ringling Bros., Barnum and Bailey Circus chose the fair to make it's first ever county fair appearance.

This year's fair boasts more modern delights like macaroni and cheese on a stick and other new-fangled inventions; but still manages to give a nod to long-time traditions like circus acts and carnival rides. There will also be shopping.

Fair spokeswoman Leslie Galerne-Smith says more than 600 vendors will offer a medley of products including mattresses, jewelry, and even specialty coffins.

“The one that always gets a lot of attention is the Dodger fan coffin," she said.

"It is an actual coffin with a Dodger logo on it, so for the ultimate fan. You can also get an urn if you’re more of the cremating style. I don’t know if anyone’s ever purchased it, but I know they come back every year.”

The fair will also offer a place for locals to compete in a wide array of talents. Winners will be chosen for the best preserved foods, egg rolls, enchiladas and even a left-over turkey dish, according to the fair's website.

There will also be a live shark show featuring professional shark handler Phillip Peters. Peter says he'll be the main entertainment, "I dive with them. The sharks are un-trainable ... you can’t train a shark. So ... what you see is what you get. They swim around, but you add a human to it, then you change a whole lot it a show."

He says he tries to get the sharks to wave at the audience and even plays air guitar on their bodies, if they'll let him.

"I’ve been doing it for almost 20 years now and I’ve probably been bit like 20 times or so. So only once a year — that’s all right," he said.

Other fair features include magic shows, a museum on the human body and a tribute to America’s national parks. Galerne-Smith says the county fair attracts more than 1 million people every year. It continues through Oct. 2.

KPCC's Lily Mihalik contributed to this report.