San Diego County Fair returns to Del Mar on June 7

By Kristina Houck

Food, fun and all things “fab” returns to Del Mar when the San Diego County Fair opens on June 7.

This year’s theme is “The Fab Fair,” celebrating the British Invasion that “changed the music scene in America and the world,” said Tim Fennell, CEO and general manager of the Del Mar Fairgrounds, during the May 21 press conference and event sneak peek.

The month-long fair will feature British music, pop culture and several exhibitions, including two Beatles photo exhibits.

“The Beatles! Backstage and Behind the Scenes” is a collection of 80 never-before-published photos of the band’s first U.S. performance on “The Ed Sullivan Show” in February 1964 and the 20-city tour that followed, which included San Diego in 1965. “Give Peace a Chance” commemorates John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s “bed-in” for peace in 1969. Both exhibits will make their California debut during the fair.

The fair will also feature eight stages of entertainment, including 24 days of Beatles’ music.

“Every year we pride ourselves on bringing to the fair industry and our guests new and exciting themes and entertainment that are loads of fun and appeal to the entire family,” Fennell said. “Creativity, innovation, education, novelty and good old family fun makes the San Diego County Fair, in my humble opinion, the best fair in the world.”

As the largest annual event in the county and one of the top 10 fairs in the United States and Canada, the San Diego County Fair attracts more than 1.4 million fairgoers each year.

One of the biggest draws? Food.

Fair mainstay Chicken Charlie’s is back.

Last year, his top seller was deep-fried cookie dough. This year, Charlie is serving a triple cheeseburger on Krispy Kreme donuts instead of buns. He’s also excited to introduce fried chicken — no meat, just the skins.

“I don’t know if I’m crazy or I’m a genius. All I know is everything I see, I question if I can fry it or not,” said Charlie Boghosian, who has served fried food at the fair for nearly 30 years, 18 years as the owner of Chicken Charlie’s. “Even if it’s not on the healthy side, it’s not something you’re gong to eat all the time. That’s what makes it so fun. Once a year you get to try something different.”

The Big Bite Bacon Fest will also return for a second year on July 5. The event features a variety of bacon dishes paired with samples of San Diego’s top craft beer.

“Just get your bacon on,” said Kelleigh Strobel, promotions director of Big Bite Events. She noted that nearly 4,000 people attended the inaugural Big Bite Bacon Fest to sample bacon-themed dishes from roughly 40 restaurants last year. “It’s an awesome event and there’s something for everybody.”

Other fair highlights this year include the “J.F.K. Experience,” which commemorates the 50th anniversary of his assassination. The exhibition will include a re-creation of the Oval Office, a replica fuselage of Air Force One and a collection of gowns worn by first ladies during inaugurations.

On June 14, the Toast of the Coast wine festival will feature wines from California and Baja California wineries. The San Diego International Beer Festival June 20-22 will offer more than 400 beers from around the world.

Performances for the Summer Concert Series include Third Eye Blind on June 7, Jeff Dunham on June 12, Darius Rucker on June 13, Hunter Hayes on June 14, Smokey Robinson on June 20, Toni Braxton and Kenny “Babyface” Edmonds on June 21, REO Speedwagon on July 2, and more.

The fair opens June 7 and runs through July 6. Daily admission is $14 for adults, $8 for children ages 6-12 and $8 for adults 62 and older. Children 5 and younger receive free admission. A season pass is $24.

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