Tiki Tablescaping & Luminasia at the LA County Fair

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Every year we go to the LA County Fair and every year I stumble across something related to tiki. (And every year we wonder why we ride this giant Ferris Wheel as we freak out when it reaches the top.)

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Our latest fried food adventure was fried Doritos, which were, in a word, unnecessary. They paled in comparison to Chicken Charlie’s previous triumphs of fried avocado and the fried Klondike Bar. (Though we may not eat any more fried food at the fair since we discovered the amazing duck confit grilled cheese from the Street Kitchen stand.)

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One of the halls housed the exhibit “Mid-Century Modern” which featured some gorgeous cars and vintage furniture sort of oddly interspersed with vending booths for artists with retro flair. (Among them was Rachel Walker, whose “Pina Colada” print provided the first tiki sighting of the day.)

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And surprisingly, that was the only tiki-related thing I saw in that exhibit. (The two often go hand in hand, as I’ve found at Palm Springs Modernism Week.) At any rate, the pièce de résistance for me was this amazing Arkay “Fantasia” television (aka Kuba “Tango” Stereo Console) produced between 1959-1962. Those lines!

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Last year I had lamented the lack of tiki representation in the tablescaping section of the arts and crafts building, but this year did not disappoint! “Turn the Table” featured a tiki from Oceanic Arts, Trader Vic’s salt and pepper shakers, Don Ho “Suck ’em Up” glasses, Dynasty Easter Islander mugs, bamboo flatware and more.

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The judges awarded top points for originality/creativity for the upside-down table and its tiki torch legs, but points were docked in the correctness category: “Fruit for salad and dessert course is repetitive. Questioning the knife, as it does not go with the menu. Lobster pick is appropriate but nut pick is not.” Still, it scored 90/100 points, which was good enough for the fourth place ribbon.

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Another highlight was the new exhibit Luminasia, an impressive display of about 300 giant Chinese lanterns shaped like animals, flowers and famous landmarks near and far.

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The colorful creations were made by more than 50 Chinese artisans from Zigong, a city in the Sichuan province that’s known for its lantern festivals.

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It was an additional $9 to walk through it, but we thought it was worth it, especially when I spotted this trio of Moai in gold, silver and copper colors. They were placed among other icons like the Leaning Tower of Pisa, Eiffel Tower and…Morongo Casino. (They were a sponsor.)

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The 2014 LA County Fair ends after this weekend, so you better get going if you haven’t already!

Related Posts:
Tikis, Mermaids & More at the LA County Fair

Tiki Sno Cones & Tablescaping at the LA County Fair
LA County Fair: Tiki Cake

Tiki at the LA County Fair: Part Five

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Many people claim that Los Angeles has no seasons, so I suppose the L.A. County Fair is helpful in marking the end of summer. We cherish our annual traditions of riding the biggest Ferris Wheel (even though it’s sort of terrifying)…

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…cooing at the cute baby farm animals…

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…and eating ridiculous fried food. This year we tried the deep-fried Reese’s Peanut Butter Big Cup (pictured) and Chicken Charlie’s deep-fried cookie dough. Both were definitely winners in my book.

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We scoped out the tablescaping contest in the arts and crafts building, too. Alas, there was no tiki-themed entry like last year, but I did enjoy this one for “It Happened One Night” that was set up as if the stars Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert had just stepped out for a moment.

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New for this year were shows by Mermaid Melissa, a legit underwater performer who can hold her breath for five minutes. We were pretty underwhelmed by the size of the traveling tank — but how could we not be after seeing Marina the Fire-Eating Mermaid at the Wreck Bar earlier this summer? The kids (and one kinda creepy dude) seemed to enjoy it, though.

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The highlight of this year’s fair was the giant exhibition Pencils 2 Pixels: The Art of Animation. There were displays for the biggies like Disney, Dreamworks and Sony Pictures Animation, but there was also representation of stop-motion animation (“Pirates! Band of Misfits”), Japanese anime and video game animation.

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We’re pretty fond of cartoons around our house, if you hadn’t noticed by the frequent “Tiki on TV” posts I write. I’m pretty sure I squealed with delight when I spotted this animation cell from “Jem and The Holograms.”

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Part of the exhibit was dedicated to a gift shop where I found this Disney art giclee of James Mulligan’s “Tiki Trouble” ($595), featuring Stitch and the tiki poles from inside The Enchanted Tiki Room.

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There were cut-outs and set pieces where you could take a picture in the living room of “The Simpsons” and the Mystery Machine from “Scooby Doo.” Of course I had to pose with the Moai-inspired home of Squidward Tentacles from “Spongebob Squarepants.”

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We wandered through a few of the other expo buildings with their in-person infomercials and among the vendors was a booth with all kinds of piñatas, including this tiki-ish one. That’s one way to take out your aggression for those Party City-style tikis! Though buying them would just encourage them to make more, so never mind.

Related Posts:
Tiki Sno Cones & Tablescaping at the LA County Fair
LA County Fair: Tiki Cake
Tons of Tikis at the LA County Fair

Tiki at the LA County Fair: Part Four

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In this requisite annual post I present to you more of the myriad reasons why I love the LA County Fair. Among them are taking photographs of the ferris wheel at sunset, eating strange fried food and finding random tiki sightings.

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Chicken Charlie is famous for serving up deep-fried delights, but this year he introduced a new stand called The Pineapple Express that offered some island-inspired options that were promoted as healthier than your typical fare fair.

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One of these was the “Naked Shrimp” ($11.95) with white rice and pineapple chunks, served in half a pineapple shell. If you’re concerned this dish sounds too healthy, don’t worry, they also give you a side of melted butter! The shrimp looked like they might have some spice, but were pretty bland. I appreciated the novelty presentation, but we’ll skip this next year.

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On the other hand, the deep-fried lobster on a stick ($12.87) was juicy inside and the crisp coating had great seasoning.

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Of course, Chicken Charlie couldn’t stray too far from his roots so there was also deep-fried Spam and deep-fried pineapple rings with chocolate sauce (both $6.44) to continue the Hawaiian theme. Not surprisingly, the latter wasn’t very good. I guess the deep-fried Klondike Bar shall remain my all-time favorite.

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Even though we went at the end of September, the weather was still hotter than it had any business being. We paused to cool off with some shave ice at The Big “Kone” Huna, which I think might have been a new food vendor at the LA County Fair this year.

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Their stand had a thatch roof, some tiki masks and bamboo poles, but also hot rod flames, disco lights and dance music, so that was a bit odd. As was their logo with a surfin’ dude in a scary-looking tiki mask. Yikes.

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We couldn’t decide what flavors to get so we went with their suggestion of strawberry and pina colada “Hawaiian style” with sweetened condensed milk on top ($5.06). It was pretty good, though I kept stealing spoonfuls from our friends’ order of lime and margarita.

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Every year we make sure to visit the arts and crafts building. We speculate on the fierce rivalry among the jam and preserves makers, and examine the prize-winning baked goods slowly decaying in the glass displays. There was no tiki cake this year, but there was this impressive cake for “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.”

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We’re also slightly obsessed with the tablescaping contest where people decorate tables according to themes, complete with elaborate centerpieces and menus for an imaginary meal. (Part of our fascination has to do with the nitpicky critiques from the judges, like “Teaspoon near knife is a questionable decision.”)

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Of course this table caught my eye! It was inspired by James Michener’s book Hawaii, and featured a thatch roof over the table, woven palm frond placemats, monkey pod wood dishes, mini tiki torches, fake tropical flowers and tiki salt and pepper shakers. The Hairpin has some great pictures of some of the other tablescaping entries (including one for Game of Thrones!).

Related posts:

LA County Fair 2011 – Lumberjacks & Tiki Cakes
LA County Fair 2010 – Chocolate Covered Oreos Wrapped in Bacon!
LA County Fair 2009 – A Horse Named Tiki