Fairgrounds celebrates conclusion of first in-person county fair since COVID-19

Fair attendees at the Del Mar Fairgrounds on July 1.
Fair attendees at the Del Mar Fairgrounds on July 1.
(Ariana Drehsler/For The San Diego Union-Tribune


After more than 973,000 visitors, 27,734 ice cream cones and 10,000 frog legs served, board members who operate the Del Mar Fairgrounds celebrated the completion of the first in-person San Diego County Fair since before the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Del Mar Fairgrounds last year hosted Homegrown Fun, a scaled-down version of the fair, but was finally able to return this year with all the rides, attractions and food that guests are accustomed to.

“We nearly hit our attendance goal,” said Carlene Moore, CEO of the Del Mar Fairgrounds, adding that they were aiming for more than 1 million.

Revenue and other financial details will be available in October, when invoicing is complete, according to fair staff.

Fair board member Frederick Schenk added that this year’s fair was “one that was long in coming.”

Board member Michael Gelfand also mentioned the work that fairgrounds staff had to do to secure the midway. In April, a Superior Court judge issued an injunction that blocked a contract awarded by the 22nd District Agricultural Association, the organization that operates the fairgrounds, for a single company to run the midway. The ruling said that the district did not follow competitive bidding practices. Later that month, the 22nd DAA reached an agreement with vendors, including the company that filed the lawsuit over the midway contract, that allowed the fair to proceed.

“I just thought the fair was fabulous this year,” Gelfand said. “Every time I was there, people were just blown away.”

In addition to the usual rides, the fair also included competitive exhibits in commercial spirits, commercial wine, flowers, wood design and other categories. Artists such as Jason Derulo, Shaggy, Los Tigres Del Norte, Goo Goo Dolls and Gabriel Iglesias highlighted the summer concert series.

The fair board also voted on next year’s theme: Get Out There. It is scheduled from June 7 through July 4, 2023, closed Mondays and Tuesdays in June.

“I love this theme because it’s a real call to action and it can mean so many different things,” said Katie Mueller, chief operating officer of the Fairgrounds. “What you’re going to see is a celebration of the diversity of outdoor activities we have in San Diego County and beyond.”