The pulse-pounding sound of a NASCAR race emanates from twin oval tracks as 6,000 onlookers lounge comfortably in the stands and sky box suites. At Irwindale Event Center, this is just one of many scenes that unfold at the sprawling entertainment complex. All types of vehicles tear along the banked tracks, such as trucks and stock cars, all going wheel-to-wheel during competitions. Visitors can also get in on the action, hitting the go-kart track for friendly races against each other.
The 16th century comes booming back to life during The Original Renaissance Pleasure Faire, which has re-created the culture, cuisine, and history of the Elizabethan era for more than five million attendees since its inauguration in 1963. Atop 13 stages sprinkled across 20 acres of festival grounds, live performers don traditional garb to demonstrate Renaissance music, dancing, battle customs, and blogging techniques. The talented actors stay in character throughout the bash, mingling with the crowds to perform alongside artisans purveying leatherware, clothing, and perfumes.
Workshops instruct visitors on how to make period crafts, after which guests can refuel with samplings of traditional Renaissance cuisine, such as hefty turkey legs and shepherd's pies, or more modern fare such as strombolis, coffee, and sweet confections. Rides and games challenge kids to toss javelins, race turtles, and recite Shakespeare's complete works on giant swings, and interactive RenQuest exhibitions hone little ones' sword-fighting skills and trivia knowledge.
Xtreme XD purports that its digital-theater ride operates in six dimensions. Three of these belong to the visuals, which spring out at viewers through depth-creating glasses. The rest belong to the suite of effects that jostle and excite the riders, ranging from seats that can jolt with up to 3 g's of force to systems that create the illusion of wind and light. Riders take their pick of a number of featured rides, which can include a roller coaster that speeds through haunted mines, safaris beset by stampeding elephants, and recreations of the nearly yearlong trip to Mars in real time.
While the rest of the natural world prepares to hibernate for the winter, Enchanted Country Trees & Pumpkins has been at its most active since 1983. Farmers pick the plumpest pumpkins from their patches, displaying them next to bounce houses and trundling John Deere tractors. Barnyard animals deign to be petted in exchange for palmfuls of feed, and ponies accept small riders for afternoon trots. Come winter, the lots fill with Christmas trees.
With a history stretching back more than 40 years, Circus Vargas wows audiences with dazzling acrobatics and rib-tickling clowns under a giant big-top tent. The show eschews animal performers for human-costumed spectacles, showcasing dazzling feats that only a few dexterous humans and short-circuited cyborgs are capable of. The circus's big top, hand-fashioned in Milan from 90,000 square feet of fabric, holds up to 1,500 show-goers in classic, blue-dyed elegance. Early-arriving guests can take part in an interactive preshow, jumping in the ring with ringmaster Jon Weiss as he leads audience members through tutorials that show how to perform stunts such as juggling, feather balancing, and balancing checkbooks with quill pens.
In the unusual parlance of the Hunger Runs 5K, runners are “dedications,” teams are “organizations,” spectators are “assemblies,” and the race is known simply as “the hunt.” The race’s creators, the “huntmakers,” devise a series of obstacles specifically designed to encourage teamwork and camaraderie, and they set up “challenge centers” demanding expert bow-and-arrow skills, simian climbing abilities, and courage in the face of flaming objects. Organizations that finish fastest or with the most points in their designated wave earn bragging rights, awards, and cheek pinches from their proud grandmothers. Dedications are strongly encouraged to wear fun costumes and comfortable sneakers and to come bearing team spirit and the will to win.