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Natural Perspectives: It's Fair to say we had oodles of fun

July 20, 2011|By Vic Leipzig and Lou Murray
(Courtesy Lou Murray )

While Vic was participating in a bird census at Harriett M. Wieder Regional Park on Friday, I went to the opening of the Orange County Fair in Costa Mesa with my friends Glee Gerde and Judi Smith. We had a blast.

Admission and parking were free for the first hour of opening day, so we didn't even have to use the free fair tickets that we received in exchange for entering various contests. I had entries in photography and produce. Judi entered quilts and sewing.

But first, we had to actually get to the fair. Traffic was backed up for two miles along Fairview Road and all the way back to the San Diego (405) Freeway. We had planned on arriving early, but as things worked out, we arrived minutes before the gates opened. At the stroke of noon, masses of people poured through the gates. The 2011 O.C. Fair was on.

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I was most curious to see how my giant beet fared in the competition. I had brought it to the fair for judging the day before. I was sure that Gargantua couldn't be beat. It was the largest beet I've ever grown. Just getting it into the car to take to the fair was a feat in engineering. Vic and I maneuvered it several ways before we got it all into my Toyota Highlander. From root tip to stalk top, it was more than 8 feet long. Out of curiosity, I weighed it. Gargantua tipped the scale at 15 pounds.

At the fairgrounds Thursday, I carried Gargantua over my shoulder like a load of lumber. There were oohs and aahs as I passed bystanders. One of the volunteers asked jokingly what that ugly thing was. I must admit, Gargantua didn't look like any beet I've ever seen before. With it's gnarly root and a half dozen seed stalks stretching to infinity and beyond, it was a thing of awesome ugliness.

I thought for sure I had first prize nailed this year. So Glee, Judi and I hustled our bustles over to the produce competition first thing. But my wonderful giant beet was dwarfed by the beet next to it. Pat Wolff of Huntington Beach had entered a sugar beet whose root was twice as long as the root on Gargantua. Pat took first place, and I took second. There was no way a Chioggia beet could ever get as large as a sugar beet, which are enormous beets that are grown only for their sugar. And for future reference, everyone cuts the tops off their beets. The seed stalks don't count in the judging. Live and learn.

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