They’ll chow down deep-fried Snickers bars and cheeseburgers sandwiched between Krispy Kreme donuts.
They’ll cheer at concerts, pig races and monster truck rallies and scream while dangling upside down on crazy rides.
They’ll drink beer.
Then drink more beer.
More than 1 million visitors pass through the gates of the Orange County Fair every summer – as many as 60,000 on a given day – each with some form of revelry in mind.
Deputies with the Orange County Sheriff’s Department are on hand to make sure it all goes smoothly.
The OCSD provides police services at the fair, with anywhere from eight to 20 deputies patrolling on foot at a given time and a pair patrolling on bicycles.
“We are not here trying to make arrests,” said Deputy Chris Emerson, a 10-year veteran of the OCSD who is working his second fair. “We are out here trying to prevent stuff from happening.”
Emerson and partner Dan Vila are stationed at the fair every day during its 23-day run from July 15 to Aug. 14.
Their mission is to be visible and insure everyone enjoys their visit and leaves safely.
“We want everyone to see us,” said Vila, an 11-year OCSD veteran working his third fair. “We try to be proactive.”
For most of the 12 to 14 hours the fair is open per day, things go relatively smoothly
When there are situations requiring a police response, however, it almost always stems from alcohol, and usually late at night, Vila said.
“Fights, arguments and domestic issues,” Vila said.
Sometimes the altercations end peacefully with no action taken.
Other times, citations are issued and the guilty subjects are ejected.
Rarely, the incident ends with someone in handcuffs and taken to jail.
As of July 28, only one person had been taken to jail for assault on a peace officer, resisting arrest and being drunk in public.
“We try to prevent (arresting people) but sometimes it is unavoidable,” Vila said.
What is not as visible is the OCSD mobile command center, a tractor-trailer sized vehicle situated on the outer edges of the fairgrounds.
Named “Samantha 1” for Samantha Runnion, a 5-year-old Stanton girl who was kidnapped and murdered in 2002, the mobile command center serves as a mini-OCSD headquarters for the fair and is staffed with a dispatcher, lieutenant, sergeant and two deputies.
Fairgoers are also able to send in tips and photos of suspicious activity via text, which will go directly to phones carried by deputies.
The OCSD also manages a lost kids booth, where up to five children or special needs individuals per day wind up, Avila said.
Deputies assigned to the fair also check in regularly with the Orange County Intelligence Assessment Center, a multi-agency network that gathers and circulates information related to public safety threats.
In the wake of recent deadly attacks against law enforcement, one group of fairgoers on a recent Friday approached Avila and Emerson and thanked them for their service, a relatively new occurrence, Emerson said.
“It’s nice,” Emerson said. “It’s not the norm.”