Elephant ride operator thanks Del Mar fair board

By Joe Tash

The owner of the company that has provided elephant rides at the San Diego County Fair for 30 years thanked fairgrounds officials for their support on Tuesday, April 8, in the wake of the company’s decision not to provide the rides at this year’s fair.

“We love you guys,” said Kari Johnson, co-owner of Have Trunk Will Travel, along with her husband, Gary. “We look forward to having our elephants participate in any way in the future.”

The rides have been controversial for several years, as animal rights activists contended the company treated its elephants improperly, and that the rides posed a potential danger to children.

The board of the 22nd District Agricultural Association voted in 2011 to keep the rides through the 2014 edition of the fair, and then planned to revisit the issue.

At Tuesday’s board meeting, director Lisa Barkett said the elephant rides brought joy to many children and adults over the years.

“I’m personally saddened you won’t be here this year at the fair,” Barkett told Johnson.

The Johnsons announced their decision March 27, citing business and personal reasons.