For all the many temptations that the OC Fair offers, Lynsee DiMiceli sometimes enjoys nothing there more than air conditioning, a water cooler and a comfortable couch.
In fact, she feels that way multiple times a day.
The Fountain Valley High School senior hits the fairgrounds throughout the week as Olivia the orange, one of the OC Fair Foodie mascots that roam the vicinity and interact with crowds of all ages. As fun as the job may be, it gets hot in that costume, and even the battery-powered fan tucked inside can't stave off the heat for too long.
Is it worth it? Well, DiMiceli is playing Olivia for the second year in a row.
"I really love making people smile and being myself and goofy and weird," the 18-year-old said. "This is a place where I can just let it out and no one will care, because I'm a mascot."
Last summer, the fair debuted the Foodie mascots, which include Arturo the churro, Carl the cotton candy and Scoop the ice cream cone. Every day, Foodies roam the grounds, pose for pictures and interact with fairgoers — with the help of escorts, since it can be hard to see out of those eyeholes.
Fair spokeswoman Robin Wachner said becoming a Foodie requires no formal physical training, but the right kind of personality is key.
"They are given instructions on how to do their assignments, and in their interviews, they have to prove they can dance and entertain appropriately for a costumed character," she wrote in an email.
DiMiceli, a Huntington Beach resident, fit that requirement.
With her regular clothes on underneath, DiMiceli prepares for a shift by sliding into a pair of long orange pants with huge, padded feet attached. A fellow Foodie helps her put on her plush orange arms, held by a strap around her back. Last comes the top: Olivia's head, complete with a green leaf in place of hair, rosy cheeks and a wide, dimpled smile.
On Wednesday, as the fair started its second week, DiMiceli ventured into the sun in her Olivia costume and had an adoring crowd around her within a minute. Two boys, who looked about middle-school age, ran up and gave her a hug — possibly as a joke. Three younger girls, who appeared more sincere, followed and posed — grins intact — for a picture with her.
Olivia — who, like other Foodies, doesn't speak when in character — stayed active around her fans, sometimes curtsying, waving or giving a thumbs-up. At one point, when a man cradling a baby girl stopped to high-five Olivia, the girl began shrieking, and he hurried her away.
According to DiMiceli, those moments happen fairly often.
"You see so many little kids and they're so excited to see you, but then again, you see so many kids, and they're so afraid of you," she said. "They start crying, and you're like, 'Oh my gosh.' I don't know — it's just that stage between, like, 1 and 2, when they're super scared of us, and I don't know why."
How does she allay their fears, then?
"I try to just kind of get down and try to just hold out my hand," DiMiceli said. "Usually, their parent will touch my hand, and then they all start touching my hand. We try to get them more comfortable. They usually leave without being scared, so it's cool."
Cool, yes. For a Foodie, that's always a nice-sounding word.