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Orange County Fair opens today

7/15/2011, 7:14 a.m.

COSTA MESA, Calif.--The 121st edition of the Orange County Fair opens today, with the theme of "Let's Eat" to connote a sense of gathering the community together like a family dinner, according to chief executive officer Steve Beazley.

The fair will open at noon with admission free for all entering during the first hour. The fair will continue through Aug. 14.

There were fears that last year's fair would be the last, with the state attempting sell the fairgrounds in Costa Mesa, but a recent appellate court ruling has stopped the sale.

Advance ticket sales "have been through the roof this year," Beazley told City News Service.

Among the firsts this year are "extreme athletes" performing stunts on pogo sticks, an ice museum, and cooking demonstrations from celebrity chefs.

The Pogo-Palooza will feature daredevil tricks on pogo sticks, Beazley said.

"And you can only see it at our place for better or for worse," Beazley said with a chuckle.

One of the new eating choices is deep-fried Kool-Aid.

"You always wonder about the taste combination of deep-fried foods, but the Kool-Aid in the deep-fried batter works really well from what I'm told.

Every one says it's all the rage, so I'll try it for sure," Beazley said.

Bob Dylan will begin the musical performances in the adjoining Pacific Amphitheatre Friday, and blues legend B.B. King will conclude the concert schedule on Aug. 14. In between, comedian Bill Cosby will perform Aug. 6.

Cosby doesn't tour often anymore so his schedule is wide open, making him a "booker's dream," Beazley said. All the staff has to do is fly him in from New York, put an eight-by-eight foot carpet on stage with a chair and a microphone and Cosby will spin his hilarious yarns, Beazley said.

The schedule includes two youth-oriented events--the boy band Big Time Rush, which will perform July 22--and Selena Gomez will who will perform July 24.

"These two acts will be the highest-selling in the fair's history," Beazley predicted.

"We're expecting probably 12,000," for Gomez, Beazley said. "The clamoring for tickets has really been something."

The animal rights organization Animal Defenders International plans to conduct a protest tonight regarding the fair's elephant rides.

The group objects to how the elephants are trained and claim to have video of the animals being shocked with stun guns during training by Have A Trunk Will Travel, the company that supplies elephants for the fair.

Beazley said he met with the organization and respects its opinion about not wanting animals kept in captivity, but added that the elephant handlers have not had a problem in the 27 years the company has done business at the fair.

"To break that relationship would take more than what the elephant protesters are running out there," Beazley said, adding he has no record of the company being investigated by any agency regarding its training.