The Orange County Fair, now in its 115th year, is held annually in Costa Mesa, California, and is home to a popular and well-maintained collection of photobooths. The photobooths, 23 in all, are in three locations around the fairgrounds, and are of four types: three and four photos per strip in black and white and in color.
When I heard that the fair had real, old-style photobooths, I had ideas that I’d head down and try out all of the booths, because how many could there be — four, five, six at the most? When I found out there were 23, and each one ran five bucks a pop, I had to modify my plans, and decided to take at least one strip in each different kind of booth, and try at least one booth in each of the sections of the park.The booths are all decked out with large signs that read “PHOTOS” for the black and white booths and “COLOR” for the color ones, and all booths have banners on top that flap in the breeze.
The booths I tried were all working very well, and the entire operation runs very smoothly thanks to the attendants at each group of booths who sell specially made tokens. I had a nice talk with Junior about the company that he works for and the future of the photobooths. The company that suplies these photobooths sticks to fairs only, and does about eight a year between February and October, up and down the west coast. The interiors of most of the booths appear the same as most I’ve seen, except for a small rectangle cut out near the floor for the power cable, and all of the booths are missing the plaque detailing the date of manufacture, serial number, and model number. A few booths had a “Jail” or “Miss U.S.A.” hinged cutout attached to the wall to add a little something to the photos.
The three-shot strips (one in color and one in black and white) were the most interesting — the color strip came out particularly nicely. The other booths I tried were three black and white machines (one, two, and three), and a color machine. It was tough to keep all of the booths straight and remember which ones I’d used, especially without any serial or model numbers. I came up with some letters and numbers to keep them separate, which is how they’re cataloged in our directory.
I had considerably more luck here than at the Ventura County Fair where I went the day before, which had no photobooths, even though I had called ahead to confirm. I think the woman I spoke with thought I meant the “Old Time” western sepia-toned costume photo stall; I guess I need to be more specific. The Magnum, P.I. ride I saw made the trip worthwhile, though.