Awesome and awful times at the fair

During last hour, workers are happy and ready to be done

People love big numbers
  • People love big numbers

The 2015 San Diego County Fair ended its almost four-week run at 11:00 p.m. of July 5. Just after the entry gates closed at 10:00 p.m., attendance for the 26 days was pegged at 1,503,538 visitors.

With about a half hour left before closing, at still crowded picnic tables, I shared fair food and conversation with one of the fair’s biggest fans. Marlene from La Costa first started coming to fair when she was 18. While she wouldn’t disclosure her age, she’s probably been coming for around six decades. She came almost every night for the entertainment, the shops, and the Mexican village. Her favorite acts this year were Tanya Tucker and Switchfoot.

Stuart from McKinney, TX, said he had been on his feet for 11 hours a day, selling Ginsu Knives in his booth under the chairlift ride. “I’ve been doing this for 40 years,” said Stuart. “My feet are like Jell-O and I am dog-tired, but Del Mar is always a huge success. Thank you San Diego,” he added.

Jennifer said her six photo booths on the midway clicked off a strip of four black-and-white poses for 6500 people.

The author digs something in the awesome column

The author digs something in the awesome column

At my favorite food booth on the midway, Tastee Chips manager Steven estimated they went through 50,000 pounds of potatoes, deep-fried in 8000 pounds of peanut oil.

Dixie and her adult grandchildren who own Dixie’s Mini Donuts in Bing Crosby Hall said she served about 42,000 donuts — 10,000 more than last year. “I look forward to going shopping for real food,” Dixie said. Unfortunately, she wouldn’t be able to rest at her home in Vista tomorrow, as the family has to return to break down the booth.

Over at the fair’s lost-and-found office, the staff had logged in the date, time, and location of all found items that were turned in. During the fair’s run, they received 24 wallets, 174 keys, 68 pieces of jewelry, 87 IDs or driver’s licenses, 128 credit cards, 232 items of clothing, and 226 cell phones.

The most unusual item found? A violin that was used in a booth offering children a chance to try musical instruments. Some kid walked off with it, the parents probably realized what had happened, and ditched it in a planter.

About half of the found items had already been returned. Items will be retained at the fair until September and then given to thrift stores.

Around the corner at the first-aid station, all the EMTs looked tired and ready for the fair to end. The most memorable aid rendered? The group said that a young lady came in really drunk, wearing white shorts and cowboy boots.

“She craps in her shorts, it got in her boots and all over our back wall.” The gang of seven pointed to the two EMTs who had to clean it up.

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The attendance at the fair should be placed in perspective. A million-and-a-half attendees makes it a big deal. But we must recall that the population of the county is well-in-excess of 3 million now. So, if all the attendees were there but once, and all of them were from inside the county, it would mean that fewer than half of the residents of the county actually attended. That doesn't seem so earthshaking, does it?

Many years ago, I had a boss who was a big retailer in the county. He absolutely despised the fair because it, he claimed, took $ millions out of the county each year. He based that on the knowledge that all the rides and the various carny operations were all from LA, Bakersfield, and other places around the state and nation. While he might have been dismissed as a crank and spoil-sport, as far as the economic impact of the fair, he was right on.

A real home-grown fair would be smaller, quieter, and funkier than that raucous assault upon the ear and retina that shows up every June in Del Mar. But the nostalgia and the childhood memories of locals keep it going and popular. So, who's to knock that?

Back in the day as they say (whomever they are) the fair was mostly local. Now it is just big time junk food retailers and run of the mill carney crap. The 4H stuff is good if you are into that and the hobby stuff it always interesting however, the traffic, parking and masses of people make it a chore and not worth the price. When carneys come to town the crime rate in the immediate area jumps 20% something the Fair Board doesn't want you to know.

Oh Nay Nay Visduh. Numerous food booths are based in SD. Chicken Charlies, The Mediterranean, Fish & Chips, Pignotti's Italian, Roxy, Dixie's Mini Donuts. These and more started years ago, here, when the fair was small. As the fair grew, to now the 4th largest in North America, they grew their operations to be able to travel to other fairs.

The fair also hires hundreds of locals, mostly teenagers for their first jobs, to work in the food booths, traffic and parking, clean up, etc. Also local bands get to expose their music to new fans. I first saw SD jazz crooner David Patrone at the fair and have been a loyal fan ever since. Hundreds of high schoolers and college kids get to display their photos and art pieces. All good.

Will agree with you and Alex. Yes, the exhibit halls are mostly out of towner showmen. The Carnies, okay, but at least now they all speak English, about five years the ride operators did not. ANd yes the basketball game is still fix, no one can win. But I can spend a day walking around and never go in the ride area.

I used to book a local nightclub in the 80s. During the fair we'd have the cheapest house cover band, because nobody came in during the fair. Not so anymore. The fair draws from all over SoCal. A lot of people I talked to for my vids were from OC and Inland Empire. I have friends from L.A. that come every year.

Visduh, We've talked about meeting up for a year or two. If that hasn't happened by next fair, a corn dog at the fair on me.

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