The Orange County Fair is known as a summer favorite for its abundance in rides, unique food, crowds from nearby and faraway, and for offering a variety of talented performers such as the Peking Acrobats and hypnotist Mark Yuzuik. However, nestled in between the Plaza Stage and the Millennium Barn is the Crafters Village, where numerous vendors have set up shop to sell their own distinct goods. The Crafters Village highlights the talent of local and distant artisans with a number of different skills and expertise.
This year there are fewer vendors throughout the Crafters Village, granting fairgoers a little bit more elbow room as COVID-19 persists. Although there are a few shops missing, you can still find just about anything ranging from handmade body washes and scrubs (BodyTopia), to beef jerky (Papa Dan’s Premium Beef Jerky), to fossils and gemstones (Caveman Lapidary Fossils & Stones) and yes, even Amazonian parrots that make for the perfect photo op (Amazon Wonders).
Local husband and wife duo Rick and Linda, who both requested their last name not be used for privacy reasons, own Eye Catcher Bags and have had a booth every year at the OC Fair since 1982. In fact, it is the only fair where they’ve had a booth. The Costa Mesa natives sell a wide array of handcrafted bags and purses as well as their origin product, eyeglass cases. The first products they made decades ago were eyeglass cases, which helped them pick the name Eye Catcher Bags. The bags are made with different fabric designs including lemons, flowers or even dogs, giving customers more freedom to pick something that matches their own personal style.
With the fair’s closure last year, vendors like Rick and Linda are thrilled to be face to face with customers once again. The eagerness can be seen in the way Rick is more than happy to approach customers and talk to them about their products, while Linda is focused on quickly fulfilling customer orders on her embroidery machine. Incidentally, with any bag you purchase you can also choose to get your name embroidered for free.
“It is unfortunate that there are less vendors this year, but it also brings in more business to us which is a good thing,” said Rick about the limitations this year.
Another long-lasting vendor at the OC Fair is Greenshower Nursery, a family-run stand that has been selling bonsai trees, bamboo, lucky charms, Zen gardens and other knick knacks for almost 30 years at the OC Fair.
One family member says she is just grateful to be vaccinated and back at the Crafters Village this year. She is glad to have customers back and enjoying the serenity and luck that bonsai and bamboo provide. Fairgoers can be seen enjoying the elaborate mini-fountain displays or picking out a baby bonsai tree. Since maintenance and care of a bonsai tree is crucial, the family also sells bonsai food, tools and pots. When you buy a tree, you are also provided with a handy information sheet that includes the history of bonsai and tips for taking care of it. Along with the many plants Greenshower Nursery has to offer, there are also mini-figurines of the Buddha, the elephant god Ganesh and other spiritual figures. Third eye bracelets and necklaces of various sizes can also be found at this tranquil stand.
A piece of advice: Come during the daytime to the Crafters Village to shop with less traffic and to also get a good amount of time at each stall. Get to know your vendors as well to make your shopping experience all the more memorable.
Sandra Muñoz runs KSDB, a cozy little stand that sells embossed leather bracelets crafted by Muñoz herself as well as rings, necklaces, bags and other miscellaneous items. Muñoz, originally from Brazil, has been at the fair for 12 years selling her handmade products. She brings her culture into her shop through the vibrant colors and designs seen on her bags and jewelry. There are dozens of rings, bracelets and necklaces to choose from, and for the most part, they’re all $5 or less.
Being so family oriented, Muñoz says she named the shop after the initials of each of her family members, including herself. The ‘D’ in KSDB stands for Daniel, her son, who happens to run the stand right next to Sandra. Daniel and his wife, Genessis, own Dolce Luna Boutique selling chic clothes, jewelry and more.
One More Week at the OC Fair
As the fair finishes its run soon, there are still some events and exhibits worth checking out.
- Through Aug. 8: Friesian Horse Club of Southern California
- Through Aug. 15: Urban Agriculture
- Through Aug. 15: Oasis Camel Dairy
- Aug. 11 to 15: OC Vaulting
The Hangar at the OC Fair
- Aug. 7: In The End: The Premiere Linkin Park Experience
- Aug. 8: Mariachi Sol de Mexico de Jose Hernandez
- Aug. 11: The Heart of Rock & Roll: A Tribute to Huey Lewis & The News
- Aug. 12: Green Today / Blink180True: Tributes to Green Day and Blink-182
- Aug. 13: I Am King: The Michael Jackson Experience
- Aug. 14: Led Zepplica: The Led Zeppelin Experience
- Aug. 15: Atomic Punks / Motley Inc.: Tribute to Early Van Halen / A Tribute to Motley Crue
Pacific Amphitheatre, through the end of summer
- Aug. 6 and 7: Rebelution / The Green (Steel Pulse recently canceled its participation due to health concerns.)
- Aug. 8: The Fab Four
- Aug. 11: Cheap Trick / Blue Oyster Cult
- Aug. 13: Dwight Yoakam / Big Sandy & His Fly-Rite Boys
- Aug. 14: The Aquabats / The English Beat / Dead Man’s Party
- Aug. 15 (closing day of the fair): Jo Koy & Friends
- Aug. 20: Colbie Caillat / Natasha Bedingfield / Diana DeMuth
- Aug. 21: “Toy Story” with the Pacific Symphony
- Aug. 22: Ramon Ayala / Enigma Norteno
- Aug. 25: Goo Goo Dolls / Sister Hazel
- Aug. 26: Flaming Lips / Greer
- Aug. 29: Roger Daltrey
- Sept. 2: Chase Rice / Breland
Masks and Social Distancing
During a recent visit to the Crafters Village and the fair in general, about half of total fairgoers, vendors and other staff were observed wearing masks. Since it is such a food- and drink-centered fair, it is tricky for everyone to always follow mask recommendations. Inside the exhibit buildings where masks are required for unvaccinated guests, it appears that many people have their masks on. However, there isn’t really anyone checking or enforcing the rules. There are posted signs stating the mask requirement, but that’s about it.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently issued a recommendation that even fully vaccinated people should wear masks in public indoor settings in areas of substantial or high transmission, which would include Orange County. State guidelines echo mask wearing when you’re indoors in public settings.
Another thing you don’t really see is staff going around and wiping down surfaces, such as door handles, tables or even rides, although there are plenty of hand-sanitizing stations placed throughout the fairgrounds.
When asked about COVID-19 health and safety protocols, the OC Fair’s director of communications Terry Moore said there are increased sanitization procedures this year that include both wiping down surfaces more frequently and additional restroom cleaning.
Also, the OC Fair & Event Center has now been deemed a GBAC STAR Facility by the Global Biorisk Advisory Council.
“GBAC STAR certifies that facilities are able to demonstrate that correct work practices, procedures and systems are in place to prepare, respond and recover from outbreaks and pandemics,” Moore said.
In terms of crowds at the fair, around popular areas like The Hangar where people gather for performances all day long, there is not much social distancing that is being done or enforced. At night during the concerts especially, it can get pretty packed as people gather around with their food and drinks in the Main Mall area in front of The Hangar. There is a daily limited fair capacity of 45,000 guests, but be mindful of the crowds that can occur in these favored common areas.
Finally, there is a new COVID-19 vaccine clinic inside the fair for guests, staff and partners who wish to receive either the Johnson & Johnson or Pfizer doses during their visit. No appointment is necessary and the clinic operates Wednesday through Friday as well as on Sundays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information on fair safety and the current vaccine clinic, visit https://ocfair.com/oc-fair/health-safety.
The fair is more than just food and rides – supporting artists and vendors is central to the OC Fair. As the fair comes to an end next weekend, consider carving out some time to shop and meet these dedicated vendors in the Crafters Village. Grab a turkey leg or some deep-fried oreos and stroll around while shopping for some handcrafted goodies!
Crystal Henriquez is a writing fellow for Arts & Culture at Voice of OC. She can be reached at [email protected].