Orange County Sheriff Don Barnes recently took on what probably has been his tastiest assignment yet since taking the reins of the OCSD in January.
Joined by other high-ranking OCSD officials, Barnes searched through virtually every inch of the Orange County Fair in Costa Mesa on a quest to sample the fair’s most unique and delectable delicacies.
“We’re going to do what many people do,” Barnes said before the July 24 mission got underway.
“We’re here to try the food.”
And try the food he did.
The first stop was the Chuckwagon, a fair staple for four decades. There, Barnes savored succulent ribs, the meat of which detached from the bone with just a gentle tug of clenched teeth.
“The ribs … I give them a 20 out of 10,” Barnes said.
The sheriff bit into a brisket sandwich, singing its praises while still chewing.
“I feel like Guy Fieri right now, eating and talking with my mouth full,” said Barnes, referring to the celebrity restaurateur.
The mission continued as Barnes and his team made a stop at the Olde Tyme Ice Cream trailer to sample the iconic OC Crush Milkshake, described as a “big, candy-coated cup of colorful fun.”
Other stops included Juicy’s, whose offerings included the meatless Beyond Burger and Fried Affair (fried cheesecake and fried Oreos).
“I think he’s enjoying it,” said Terry Moore, communications director for the OC Fair & Event Center. “He’s trying a lot of new things and it gives our concessionaires a chance to meet him.”
The final stop was the D&D Country Fair Cinnamon Rolls trailer for a taste of the Cinnamon Maple Bacon Bomb.
Lt. Margie Sheehan, chief of OCSD Police Services in Dana Point, joined Barnes is sampling the fair’s fare.
“I’ve never gone around and consumed this quality of fair food,” Sheehan said. “I have to tell you, it was top notch. My favorite was the cinnamon roll with the bacon on it.”
But for Barnes, Sheehan and other OCSD officials, the tasting extravaganza wasn’t just about food.
It also was about sharing and engaging with the community.
Introducing himself simply as “Don,” the sheriff invited random fairgoers within his range to sample the food with him.
The OCSD contingent posed for group photos with fairgoers and even photo bombed a few.
They high-fived and fist-bumped and handed out stacks of OCSD badge stickers to kids.
“That is the best part,” Sheehan said. “Nowadays, it’s nice to have an opportunity to have folks see us how we truly are. It’s nice to be out here, especially with the kiddos.”
Aside from the social interaction, the OCSD takes its policing role seriously when it comes to keeping the million-plus annual OC Fair visitors safe.
Teams of deputies are on patrol every second the fair is open.
They operate out of a special command post and have a variety of resources on hand if needed.
Among their most important duties is reuniting lost children with their families.
“We love seeing them out on the grounds interacting with our guests,” Moore said. “They are also just the face of safety at the fair. It’s always a positive experience.”