The San Diego County Fair has come a long way since that original opening day in 1880 when it was celebrated as an agricultural fair. Today, it is three weeks of nonstop food, music, rides, games and entertainment. Yet, no matter how big, how glamorous, how extraordinary the fair becomes, the fun remains home-grown.
From June 12 through July 5, visitors can enjoy the county fair offerings, many of which come from right around this region. See singers and musicians from San Diego compete onstage, learn from area experts at the many different exhibitions and compete against friends and neighbors in one of several daily contests.
Del Mar resident Kate Fuller, one of 19 soloists who will be competing for the $25,000 grand prize in the Musicpalooza music talent contest, is looking forward to performing for a local audience.
"I thought this would be a good way to get my name out there and let people know what I'm about," Fuller said. "It's probably quite nice (for the audience) to hear a local performer and say, 'Oh, she's been writing songs right around the corner from me.' "
Many of the specialty venues and events showcase the best of San Diego, and it's an opportunity for people to learn more about their corner of the world. Discover Ramona's Oasis Camel Dairy or visit the Paul Ecke Jr. Flower & Garden Show for advice from the San Diego Bonsai Society. There will be demonstrations, displays, lectures and classes by local experts on everything from minerals and hobbies to photography and woodworking.
"People of San Diego County feel very personal about the San Diego County Fair," said Linda Zweig, information officer for the Del Mar Fairgrounds. "It's been around for so long that people feel a part of it."
Blending tradition with a new theme each year keeps the fair invigorated and electrifying. This year, it's Music Mania.
"We have a lot of new things this year," Zweig said. "A lot of it is interactive."
The theme exhibit includes a personal concert experience, silent disco, musical game show, studio recording session, memorabilia, historic displays and other activities honoring every musical genre.
The 2009 lineup features free and ticketed concerts at several stages. From tribute bands to "American Idol" finalists, country to rock, Woodstock to the fifth annual Gospel Festival, there's a sound for everyone.
Before you even pay your admission and pass through the entrance, the fair greets you with the aroma of deep-fried elephant ears, sticky-sweet cotton candy and grilled meat.
It will be tough, deciding which of the more than 100 food stations distributed across the grounds to sample. In addition to regular favorites, the fair menu has added fried green beans, burgers by the pound, chocolate-covered bacon and a curious sandwich consisting of a marinated chicken breast tucked between oatmeal chocolate chips cookies smeared with cream cheese and strawberry jam.
For those who prefer to pack a picnic lunch, Guest Services will store it for you until you're ready to eat. Note that alcoholic beverages and glass containers are not allowed.