Don Diego, Del Mar Fairgrounds to continue partnership to award scholarships for local high school students

Don Diego’s Class of 2022 Scholars
Don Diego’s Class of 2022 Scholars
(Robert McKenzie)

The Del Mar Fairgrounds Board of Directors approved a two-year memorandum of understanding with the Don Diego Scholarship Foundation on Feb. 14 for both sides to continue working together on the foundation’s mission to award scholarships to local students.

“We want to continue the relationship with the 22nd District,” said Steve Shewmaker, chair of the Don Diego Foundation Board of Directors and a former Del Mar Fairgrounds board member.

The Don Diego Scholarship Foundation, which launched in 1986, has provided $1.3 million in scholarships to 236 San Diego County high school students who are involved with the annual San Diego County Fair and other activities at the state-owned fairgrounds. It has generated more than $200,000 in total revenue for the last five years of annual disclosures that are available on ProPublica’s nonprofit explorer.

Don Diego offers scholarships in six categories: Zable Foundation 4-H, FFA, Employee, Exhibitor/Participant, Junior Livestock Auction, and Vocational Education.

The foundation’s signature event is its annual gala, which serves as a large part of its fundraising. It is also known for its legacy brick program, which allows people to commemorate a person or occasion on a custom-designed brick that is placed in the Plaza de Mexico at the Del Mar Fairgrounds.

The memorandum of understanding includes terms for a strategic plan on fundraising goals, to maintain the Legacy Brick Program, and having a link to the Don Diego Scholarship Foundation website on the Del Mar Fairgrounds.

“Our goal altogether is to continue to support the next generation of leaders and give them materials so that they can have success and attend university and get educated as well,” said Ashley Colburn McCaughan, the foundation’s executive director and a 2005 Don Diego recipient.

Colburn McCaughan replaced Chana Mannen, the longtime Don Diego executive director who retired last summer. Mannen, a New Mexico native who relocated to Del Mar with her husband Frank, had also served as the deputy general manager of the Del Mar Fairgrounds until 2012.

Del Mar fair board member Lisa Barkett is also on the Don Diego board.

“The quality of students we get is just amazing,” Barkett said. “I can’t tell you how it gives a very warmhearted feeling about the future.”