Volunteer Spotlight: Gus Smith

This week’s Volunteer Spotlight is on Gus Smith, another committed Fairplex Ambassador at LACF. After working as a probation officer for 25 years and spending a few years volunteering with other organizations, Gus found his home here at the Los Angeles County Fair.

A perfect fit 

“I fell in love with the Flower & Garden Pavilion,” he said. Botany is one of Gus’ favorite hobbies — and the Flower & Garden Pavilion, with its peaceful atmosphere and variety of flowers and plants is a perfect fit for him.

The Flower & Garden Pavilion at LACF 

“I like seeing guests’ eyes light up when they enter [the Flower & Garden Pavilion],” he said. “I like it when they see things they’ve never seen before.” When FairKids students visit the Fair, Gus guides them through the exhibition, while also making sure the flowers are kept safe from young, energetic hands and feet.

“Kids have a tendency to want to stand on things in the exhibit,” he said. “You just have to politely ask them to stop climbing or touching plants.”

Gus himself enjoys growing and tending to orchids, mixing different seeds together to create uniquely colored specimens. Colors vary from blues to orange and red hues. He is happy to share his knowledge of plant life with visitors, giving them a different perspective to the things they see at the Pavilion.

The ambassador community 

Another volunteer highlight for Gus? The community of ambassadors he works with on a daily basis during LACF.

“The people I work with are super,” he said. “Time really does fly when you enjoy the people you are spending your days with.”

Like Gus, many of the volunteers who work at the Fair enjoy working with the FairKids program and acting as docents of the educational exhibitions each year.

“Volunteering has helped me grow into a stronger person, without a victim attitude.”

When he’s not at the Fair helping with the FairKids Field Trip Program, Gus can be found volunteering at other organizations like the West Covina Senior Citizen Center, spending time with seniors who are unable to be out and about. He also takes kids out to the Redondo Beach Pier, teaching them how to fish through another volunteer program.

“What would I do if I just sat at home?” he asks. “You’re not going to get better by doing nothing. When I wake up in the morning, I’d like to think I’ve done something to help people. That’s what I do. I help people.”

To learn more about the Fairplex Ambassador program, visit our Volunteer Hub.

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Volunteer Spotlight: Julie Crocetti

We’ve said it before and we will gladly say it again: Fair volunteers (Fairplex Ambassadors) are a vital part of LACF’s core. Behind the Fair exhibits and learning experiences are hundreds of volunteers, selflessly giving their time and energy to the FairKids Field Trip program and Fair visitors.

In our new Volunteer Spotlight series we are sharing the experiences of some of our dedicated volunteers. This week’s Volunteer Spotlight is on Julie Crocetti. 

Joining the Fairplex Ambassador Program 

“I first started volunteering about four years ago. I came to the Fair to buy tickets for a show and saw the Administration building. I decided to walk in and ask about volunteering for the Fair.”

Julie has been a part of our family ever since.

“[Volunteering] gets under your skin, then into the bloodstream and soon you’ll want to keep doing more of it,” she said.

Why volunteer? 

Volunteering allows Julie to enjoy one of her life passions: teaching. Prior to retiring, she worked as a hospice director and enjoyed teaching her employees best practices. After she left her job she found herself asking the question: “now what?”

“That’s when I connected with Fairplex,” she said. “I needed fun and purpose in my life. Volunteering with the Fair fills that need.”

Julie now gets to use her passion for teaching at LACF. She enjoys sharing “hidden” Fair facts with FairKids students, especially information about the Flower & Garden Pavilion, and the wild animals in the Atrium.

Julie comes to LACF each year with the mentality of giving guests their best Fair experience possible. Her favorite part of the Fair Ambassador program? The LACF family. “It’s like a homecoming [every year.] It’s a family. The staff is great too. Everyone is a joy to work with.”

FairKids Field Trip Program 

“Every day at the Fair is an adventure.” 

Volunteering has its fair share of challenges, but Julie loves what she does.

“It’s a worthwhile program to give your time to. We wouldn’t be here year after year if it wasn’t. Every day at the Fair is an adventure, and every year is different and new.”

Not only does Julie bring learning experiences to life for students and teachers, she mentors new volunteers too, and makes sure the whole team gets along. She goes above and beyond the call of duty when it comes to being a Fair Ambassador. But that’s not how she sees it.

If you told her she was an amazing volunteer, she would shrug her shoulders, smile and say, “I’m just doing what I came here to do: help out.”

To learn more about the Fair Ambassador program, visit the LACF Volunteer page.

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Jessica & Alvaro’s Fair-y Tale Wedding

Jessica & Alvaro are officially the first couple to get married at our new Farm venue! You can read the story of how they met here.

Jessica & Alvaro’s wedding took place on an absolutely gorgeous day at the Fair! A light breeze, fleecy white clouds, a bright blue sky and not a trace of the humidity that pervaded most of September. Perfect weather conditions for an outdoor party.

Our creative team designed a rustic, country-style theme, to match the Farm architecture. Sunflowers, miniature honey jars as party favors, lace and plenty of wooden decor created a romantic, outdoorsy wedding ceremony and reception.

Special thanks to Cucamonga Cakery for providing the adorable teacup cupcakes and wedding cake, and to Carol’s Secret Garden for the beautiful bouquets and flower arrangements! For more information on weddings at Fairplex, please visit www.sheratonfairplex.com.

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Paul & Amy’s Fair-y Tale Wedding

Paul and Amy’s Fair-y Tale Wedding took place on one of the hottest days of the Fair (110 degrees) but that didn’t stop them from getting married!

Their wedding took place inside Luminasia, before the attraction opened to the public.

Paul and Amy met seven years ago at community college. They originally planned to get married in 2011, but when Paul was called back to active military duty in Afghanistan, they had to put their plans on hold. After many other life adventures, they are ready to tie the knot. You can read their full story here.

The couple will be moving to the East Coast soon and wanted to get married with all their family and friends before moving across the country. Everyone had a great time celebrating with Paul and Amy. Congratulations to the happy couple!

A special thank-you to Wisteria Grove for the gorgeous floral arrangements and to Some Crust Bakery for providing the wedding cake and candy treats! For more information on weddings at Fairplex please visit sheratonfairplex.com.

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Fran & Darryl’s Fair-y Tale Wedding

We had a total of four weddings this year at LACF. Each one was uniquely beautiful and it was wonderful to be a part of each one. Today we wanted to share Fran & Darryl’s special day with you. You can read the story of how they met here.

Fran has overcome many obstacles in her life, including a serious car accident that left her without the use of her legs. Since that time, Fran has become totally independent, even driving her own car! It was wonderful to see her so happy at her wedding day.

This wedding was held in the Champagne Court at the Sheraton Fairplex hotel. The citrus theme is a nod to our agricultural roots as well as a preview of the expanding Farm on the other side of the campus.

A special thank you to Cucamonga Cakery for providing the elegant wedding cake and other treats, and to Carol’s Secret Garden for the lovely floral arrangements! All photos were taken my LoveMade Photography.

We can’t wait to share our other two weddings with you very soon! For more information on Fairplex as a wedding venue, please visit sheratonfairplex.com.

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Italian chef visits The Farm at LACF

Chef Antonio Cagnolo from Italian restaurant Antonello’s in South Coast Plaza visited The Farm during this year’s LACF. He selected a handful of vegetables grown at our Farm and whipped up several delicious Italian dishes using our Farm Kitchen facilities.

Chef Antonio used several of the unique crops we grow here, including UFO squash and peppermint Swisschard. Other unique fruits and vegetables we offer include the Japanese wax melons and bird peppers (one of the hottest peppers in the world.)

Watch the video to see how each dish turned out!

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Wrapping up LACF 2014

Another Fair season has come and gone. It seems like only yesterday that we were beginning our adventures at LACF!

We loved seeing all your #discoverLACF posts on social media, from carnival ride thrills to deep-fried food ventures, and meeting new animals to exploring new exhibits, it looks like all of you had a blast!

Here are our top five favorite memories from this year’s LACF:

1. Luminasia

Luminasia was a completely new experience for us at LACF. In fact, this was only the second time Luminasia has ever been in the United States, period. We will never forget the feeling we had when we saw the lanterns light up the hillsides for the first time. It was a truly one-of-a-kind experience!

2. The Farm 

If you visited the Fair this year, you would have seen the new Farm expansion:

It was nice to escape from the hustle and bustle of the carnival and shopping halls and enjoy the peace and quiet at The Farm. With dozens of specialty crops, gorgeous skies and the sound of pig races in the background, The Farm felt like a world away from the other parts of LACF. The flatbreads at the new Farm Kitchen were one of our favorite things to eat at this year’s Fair!

3. Mojo’s Wild & Crazy Lagoon 

Mojo moved her crew down to the Lagoon this year and set up shop on Monkey Island. It was fun to see the wallaby, lemurs, zebras, camels, porcupines, Lily the Spider Monkey and Mojo herself playing all day at the Fair!

4. Zorses and zonkeys 

Farm animals are a staple of the Fair and this year was no different. Alongside the pigs, cows, sheep, goats and chickens were zorses and zonkeys! Our resident cowboy Sky Shivers introduced thousands of guests to these cute fellas:

We made sure to say hello to them as often as we possibly could.

5. Grinding Gears 

After a long day of parades, shopping, petting animals and other Fair activities, it felt nice to unwind at Grinding Gears. Whether it was watching The Steam Punkers play live, dancing with the crowd to the Gizmologist’s sick beats, or being wowed by the antics of the iFlip crew, there was non-stop entertainment all night long. And it never got old!

Those were our top picks for this year’s Fair, but everyone has their own personal favorites at the Fair. Share your favorite LACF moments in the comments section below!

Thank you for a great Fair season!

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