Fifty years ago this year the Beatles came to America and nothing was ever the same. Of course, for those of us who came of age in the 60s nothing was ever the same. Kennedy, MLK, Vietnam, the moon, Haight-Ashbury, flower power, peace, draft lotteries, Kent State. If you weren’t there you really don’t know what all that means and if you were there then you do. You can’t explain it although CNN is trying hard to do so in their latest new series THE SIXTIES. So those of us who remember watching the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan show in black and white or maybe seeing them on tour when they visited Cow Palace in San Francisco will have a faint smile on their face as they visit Del Mar because this year’s San Diego County Fair has the “Fab Four” as its theme.
This very big and weird (Kongo actually thought it was over the top weird) plastic statue of the Beatles in their Sgt. Pepper Lonely Hearts Club Band outfits sits in the landscape garden near the fair entrance. Beatles songs play over the loudspeakers. The media office is next to this ensemble and Kongo swung by there to get a photo pass because the fair website said basically if you’re a serious amateur and have some fancy equipment you should get a pass. Kongo has occasionally had problems getting his camera into some events in the past so he swung by the press office and they were very nice about giving a monkey a photo access pass. In fact, as Elaine said, “You’re the first one.” Kongo suspects Elaine at the press office hadn’t read her website, but no matter. Kongo had access.Now, here’s something about a photo access sticker on your shirt that Kongo hadn’t thought about before. People actually get out of your way when they see your sticker or else they smile and are nice to you. Whoa. Maybe the monkey should start asking for more stickers. When he would position himself in places where someone might say, “Hey, you can’t go there,” instead they would see the sticker, smile a bit and turn their head just so, and say something like, “How’s it going?” Anyway, if you’re going to the fair or some other big event, have a tripod sticking out of your backpack and a fancy lens on your camera and ask for a photo access pass. Kongo’s thinking red carpets are in his future.
Anyway, back to the fair as in “Let’s go to the fun zone, daddy!” which is a refrain Kongo heard over and over as he walked around.
What kind of fair would it be without carneys, hawkers, amazing things to see for $2, rides that are designed to make you throw up, and scream zones. Well, that would be a museum and not a fair so the fun zone was actually pretty fun. With his access pass the monkey walked about with impunity to get good shots of young people who don’t know who the Beatles are but are paying good money to get scared to death.
Kongo particularly likes the first image below. The boyfriend is literally scared out of his wits. The girl, on the other hand, is having the time of her life and, oh by the way, she spotted the photo access pass instantly. Some girls have this talent. Kongo thinks that if he was ever in a real scary situation he would want her at his side and leave that big guy with the future primitive shirt on at home.
Then there are the pigeon judges. Hey, somebody has to do it and this guy knew an awful lot about pigeons. In the image below he is comparing his nose to the pigeons beak and explaining that as birds get older, their noses get bigger. Just like people. Huh? Who knew?
Did you know that pigeons are judged on a 100-point scale for awards and that there are over 100 varieties of pigeons that can be entered into fair competitions? Among other things besides their noses, pigeons are judged on their weight, color, eyes, feathering, posture, overall demeanor and so forth.
After the impromptu explanations (photo access badges work!) the judge gave a disparaging look at the bird in his hand and said in a low voice to an assistant who was taking notes, “this is just an old cock that probably shouldn’t even be here…” Well, what do you know? Pigeons past their prime don’t do well at the fair. They just become old cocks. The monkey is happy that he doesn’t fall into that category. (At least not yet!)
Keeping within the fair theme, this artist is making a chalk drawing from a photograph of the Beatles during their first USA tour.
Kongo visited the photography competition exhibit and admired the hundreds of superb entries although he didn’t particularly agree with the choice for “Best in Show” the monkey recognizes that judging these submissions is a tough job and he’s sure the judges agonized over their choices. In fact, Kongo attended a free photo workshop titled, “The Perplexing World of Contemporary Photography” by Amanda Dahlgren. Ms. Dahlgren, who happened to also be a judge of the photography submissions, presented an excellent lecture and answered some questions many have had such as, “How did that image get into the museum?” (The thought behind that questions is really, “I can take a better picture than that…”). Her hour lecture was filled with great examples of images that shaped contemporary photography and provided provoking insight into how we judge the art of photography today. The fair offers several workshops throughout the month so when you visit the fair, check the schedule.
After his recent visit to Peru, Kongo was happy to see a lot of llamas and alpacas hanging around the livestock area. He learned quite a bit about llama judging too after listening to the llamentations from one of the owners.
Kongo watched the judging of the Public Relations Competition for llamas and alpacas. Yes, that’s right, Public Relations Competition. The animals are judged on several things that gauge their ability to act as llambassadors such as how well they get in and out of the cargo van, how well they do with a scarf around them, how they react to monkeys with cameras (not well), and allowing strangers to approach them. One owner with an alpaca ranch in nearby Ramona, California, explained the ins and outs of this competition and a lot of other things about these animals. She said she doesn’t eat llama meat (“they’re my buddies”) but has heard it tastes very good, as in sweet. And it doesn’t taste like chicken. So, when llamas get too old and don’t produce good fur anymore…well, you know the rest … llama burgers on the grill.
Four-H (head, heart, hands, health) is always a big part of any fair and Kongo enjoys watching the young Four-Hers present the animals they’ve been raising for the past year or so.
These young animal keepers were showing off their goats in the goat judging competition.
Kongo also watched a demonstration by the San Diego Country fire and rescue teams who were doing simulated rescues from a ledge high up in one of the arena buildings.
These young rescuers also spotted the camera pass and smiled for the monkey. Kongo is liking the idea of photo access passes more and more! If he ever gets stuck on a cliff and needs to be rescued, he wants these two to be lowered down to get him.
Kongo also love the sheep shearing at the fair. First, it’s interesting but there is this wonderful light that comes in from overhead skylights and open side doors that makes taking photos of the shearing action a lot of fun.
Kongo had a great time at the fair yesterday. Alone. When Mrs. Kongo heard all the places Kongo wanted to visit she passed (and she is a former 4-H girl!) because after about 30 years of Del Mar fairs she likes to see if she can break her speed record of one hour and 40 minutes. In the past few years the Kongos have pretty much just gone to the home improvement exhibits, grabbed a fish taco and some cotton candy, and dashed for the parking lot. In the next week or so Kongo will go back to the zoo with Mrs. Kongo and see the exhibits. He also wants to go at night so he can get some of those iconic long exposure ferris wheel spinning shots. Stay tuned.
Travel safe. Have fun.