Sunday, April 27, 2014

Come One, Come All - To The Fair!

by Michale Hemmingway, Quilt staff


If you're one of the many Canoga Parkians who this past weekend drove by Lanark Park - "the recreation center so sublime they made it rhyme" - and thought for a moment you'd made a wrong turn at Farralone, somehow ending up in Anaheim, don't feel too bad. For almost three glorious days, it really did seem like Disneyland. What's more, judging by the smiles on the faces of the hundreds of carnival-goers, the southwest section of the out-of-doors public space briefly stole the mantle of "Happiest Place On Earth" from its venerable Orange County rival.

This weekend Lanark Recreation Center was transformed into a veritable land-locked Coney
Island, with all the sights, sounds and smells of a lively and rollicking carnival. Staff photo. 
Hopefully you didn't just drive past the park. Because if the kid in you was intrigued and took the reins, you just might have pulled over, parked, and headed onto the usually semi-grassy expanse and bought a fistful of scrip from one of the friendly ticket sellers. And if you did, you likely had yourself a time that would have made Walt Disney himself grin.

Canoga Park residents enjoyed a fun and frolicsome time riding rides, playing
games, and snacking on such delights as popcorn and cotton candy. Staff photo.
From the Tilt-A-Skew to the Zingshot, from the Twanger to the Swing-Diddler, there was a ride or attraction that satisfied most everyone's idea of fun and excitement, from wee tots to those well in their golden years.

"We've been on the Ferris wheel and the swan carousel twice and the mini-planes I think three times," says Eleanor Decker of Schoolcraft Street. "I left my cane on one of them. Okay, sweetie, let's try the Caterpillar Coaster again - maybe I left it there," the 79-year-old says to granddaughter Bethany, two-and-a-half, a sleeping bundle nestled in one arm and clinging to her neck, as Grandma trundles off a bit unsteadily, no doubt heady from an afternoon of fun.

You don't have to be LeBron James or even Lew Alcindor to win at Mini-Basketball and take
home Scooby-Doo or one of the Care Bears gang - a little luck is all that's needed.  Staff photo.
The Sky-Flip was perhaps one of the fair's most popular attractions, gathering a mob of onlookers each time the ride began. Almost on cue, a raucous cheer would go up from those on the ground as the ride propelled its passengers skyward, and then flipped the strapped-in riders upside down, raining pocket change, cell phones and more on the eager crowd below, all but drowning out the shrieks of delight from above.

"My car keys, Christ, there go my car keys!" exclaims one excited voice from somewhere near the treetops.

"I got a brand new f_ckeeng Galaxy S 5!" laughs a young man on the ground as he shows off his hard-won prize. "I f_ckeeng saw it starting to fall from like way over there an' sh_t...? And I had to like f_ckeeng run and knock like three little kids out of the way, and I caught it before it hit the ground an' sh_t! This sh_t's brand new! Ha ha!"

This Wally Gator look-alike is praying you'll take his fun kiddy coaster for a spin, and also that
Hanna-Barbera's attorneys don't aggressively protect forgotten characters from 1962. Staff photo.
All the thrills & chills of the rides and games can build up quite an appetite in busy fair-goers; luckily the carnival was prepared. Soft drinks and snacks were available for purchase and heartier fare - hamburgers, frankfurters and the like - were grilled up to order for those who didn't want to miss a minute of the fun by heading to nearby restaurants.

"Yeah, I've been doing, like, nothing in sales these last coupla days," says Pavel Zagar, who usually enjoys a bustling weekend business selling his wares from a pushcart in and around Lanark Park. "My stuff's cheaper, I make the sausage myself, and it's ready to go, shee-_t. You don't wait ten minutes for your food with me. But I have to stay on the sidewalk and I gotta try to reach people before they get to any of their concessions.  My throat is sore from trying to yell over the sound system from the damn Zip Swings. GRILLED SAUSAGE, GET YOUR GRILLED SAUSAGE HEEEEE-YA!  Shee-_t. And if I have to listen that damn Jason Derulo song one more time...!"

The colorful and dizzying Crazy Crane Fly has always been one of the
most popular attractions when the carnival comes to town. Staff photo.
A young lady with a desperate look on her face strides over from the midway and hurriedly approaches the 38-year old Reseda resident while holding a melting ice cream cone in one hand and a hot dog dripping mustard in the other as the opening notes from "Talk Dirty To Me" again start blasting from the speakers around a nearby ride.

"Oh, I hope to Christ you're not coming to me looking for napkins, lady!" Zagar shouts loudly, perhaps overcompensating for the volume of the song, the brassy chorus of which hadn't yet kicked in to drown him out. The woman stops in her tracks and turns around without a word.

And the excitement didn't end when the sun set, either: Fun and games went on into the night, with the carnival and its myriad of lights taking on an even more festive atmosphere after dark. Somehow, the cheers and laughter seemed even more boisterous at nighttime as the joyful clatter cut through the unseasonably chilly April air.
Bright, gay lights, such as those on the Ferris wheel, were
a beacon for fun as night came to the carnival. Staff photo.

"Jesus H. Christ, I wish I had known this was going to be happening this weekend," says Cohasset Street resident Dominik Mendes, whose daughter, Tiana, was to celebrate her sixth birthday with friends and relatives in an area he'd cordoned off with streamers at the north end of the park, "I spent two hundred dollars renting this bounce house and another hundred and fifty on food, and everyone just wandered off down there. It's not even worth setting up the grill for two people." He gestures, indicating his sole remaining guest: an elderly man, the birthday girl's great uncle, who sits alone in a wheelchair among fifty or so empty folding chairs. "Isn't there usually some guy selling grilled sausage around here?"

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