Fried Oreos, pig races, grandstand concerts: the San Diego county fair marks its return after a three-year absence

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At 9:10 a.m. Wednesday, Joshua Barrett and Jacqueline Orellano showed up at the Del Mar Fairgrounds and became the first in line for opening day of the 2022 San Diego County Fair.

Barrett, a 29-year-old Climax, Georgia native, said he fell in love with the fair when he moved to Fallbrook 10 years ago, and deeply missed the event at the in recent years due to the pandemic. He missed the 4H cattle shows, vendor booths, entertainment area, funnel cakes and fried Oreos. But more than anything, he missed what the fair represents in his life.

“It didn’t look like San Diego in June without the fair,” he said.

Joshua Barrett and Jacqueline Orellano were first in line Wednesday for the opening day of the San Diego County Fair, which returned this week after a three-year absence.

(Pam Kragen/The San Diego Union-Tribune)

For the first time since 2019, the full-fledged fair is back for a 21-day run that ends July 4. This year’s fair is slightly reduced from the pre-pandemic period in its duration and the number of vendors and events. But from what vendors and fair officials have observed, it could be an outsized success.

Carlene Moore, CEO of Del Mar Fairgrounds, said Wednesday fair officials expect more than a million people to walk through the doors, and public enthusiasm for the fair’s return has been high. .

This year’s fair features over 280 vendors, 110 food vendors, 21 nights of free concerts in the Paddock and 15 nights of grandstand concerts and comedy shows, not to mention several small live entertainment stages and pig races Always popular Swifty Swine. .

Attendees walk through the main entrance to the San Diego County Fair on opening day, Wednesday.

Attendees walk through the main entrance to the San Diego County Fair on opening day, Wednesday.

(Adriana Heldiz/The San Diego Union-Tribune)

Traditionally, the San Diego County event is the first major fair of the season for vendors traveling the national fair circuit. This year, the Los Angeles County Fair moved its fair forward from September to May, so it became the #1 stop. Vendors who arrived in San Diego this week from Los Angeles said they were thrilled with the public’s enthusiasm.

Montreal salesman Randall Finn has been in the circuit for 25 years. He’s selling his newest product — the Cocktail Bomb, a fizzy bath bomb-like ball that adds flavor to sparkling wine soda water — in Bing Crosby Hall. He described sales at the Los Angeles fair as a resounding success.

Randal Finn, US Executive Distributor for Cocktail Bomb Shop, explains his product at the San Diego County Fair on Wednesday.

Randal Finn, US Executive Distributor for Cocktail Bomb Shop, explains his product at the San Diego County Fair on Wednesday.

(Adriana Heldiz/The San Diego Union-Tribune)

In the next aisle, longtime Fair Traders Edie and Carlos Borel of Louisiana were setting up their sales booth for the Gripstic, a sliding plastic clip that keeps chips and other snack bags fresh, priced at 12 for $25. . The Borels also attended the Los Angeles fair in May and said they had long lines of customers every day. The Borels participated in Home Grown Fun, a much-scaled-down version of the San Diego County Fair, last summer, and their sales exceeded expectations.

“People who came here last year were so supportive,” Edie said. “They came to us and said, ‘What are you selling? I’m going to buy it,” because they were so grateful that we got out.

Carlos Borel sells Gripstic bag fastener clips at Bing Crosby Hall at the San Diego County Fairgrounds on Wednesday, June 8.

Carlos Borel sells Gripstic bag fastener clips at Bing Crosby Hall at the San Diego County Fairgrounds on Wednesday, June 8.

(Adriana Heldiz/The San Diego Union-Tribune)

Gigi Horowitz is co-owner of Mom’s Bakeshop, which has had a small booth in the showroom for the past 26 years. This year, his Orange County bakery opened its own stand on the fair’s main promenade, where cookies are baked and served fresh all day. She said sales at the Los Angeles fair last month were up 25% from pre-pandemic levels.

For many visitors, trying new foods at the fair is a top priority. But this year, fewer food vendors are experimenting with new creative concepts. Several kiosk operators said they were only serving their best-selling classics this year, rather than risk a food flop after barely surviving the past two years.

One exception is Chicken Charlie’s, where this year’s innovation is the Kool-Aid Chicken Sandwich, featuring fried chicken tenderloin dipped in cherry Kool-Aid sauce. Booth worker Julius Dehessy said the new item has been a hit in other places, but nothing can ever top sales of the fried Oreo, which has been the No. 1 seller since the owner of the company, Charlie Boghosian, presented it at the LA fair in 1990.

Stilt walkers are big participants on the opening day of the San Diego County Fair June 8 at the Del Mar Fairgrounds.

Stilt walkers are big participants on the opening day of the San Diego County Fair June 8 at the Del Mar Fairgrounds.

(Adriana Heldiz/The San Diego Union-Tribune)

On Wednesday morning, the fair got off to a leisurely start with a relatively small lunchtime crowd. Schools in the city of San Diego don’t go out until June 14, so fair officials say the biggest crowds aren’t expected until evenings, weekends and after June 15.

Prior to its cancellation, the theme for the 2020 San Diego County Fair was going to be “Heroes Unite.” This year’s fair will have the same superhero theme, but it will be called “Heroes Reunite”, in honor of the community’s return after two years of the pandemic. The “Hall of Heroes” themed exhibit near the entrance to the fairgrounds is an Avengers-themed exhibit with oversized statues of Marvel movie characters like Ironman, Hulk, and Black Panther, and interactive exhibits where kids can test their own superpowers.

At an exhibit, where children could move a handle to control a whirling tornado on a video screen, Kayla Merritt of San Diego watched her school-aged son, Taylor, play with the seesaw. She said the fair has always been the highlight of summer for her family, so she marked opening day on her calendar months ago.

“He loves superheroes, but he really loves everything about the fair – the animals, the kids’ zone, the food. It’s always a fun time,” she said.

To control overcrowding and speed up the entry process, the fair is selling tickets and parking online only this year and no season passes are offered.

San Diego County Fair

When: Doors open at 11 a.m. from Wednesday to Sunday. Closed on Mondays and Tuesdays, except July 4th.

Where: Del Mar Fairgrounds, 2260 Jimmy Durante Blvd., Del Mar

Tickets (online only and by reservation): Adults 13-61 are $20 on Friday-Sundays and July 4 and $15 on Wednesdays and Thursdays. Seniors 62 and over are $17 on Fridays and Sundays and July 4th. Youth (ages 6-12) is $17 on Saturdays, Sundays and July 4, $12 on Wednesdays and Thursdays, and free on Fridays. Children 5 and under are always free.

Parking (online sale only): On-site parking and Del Mar Horsepark (with free shuttle service) is $15. Preferred on-site parking is $30. Off-site parking at Torrey Pines High School (with free shuttle service) is free.

Call: (858) 755-1161

On line: sdfair.com

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