Fairgrounds board members begin contemplating 2021 county fair

Del Mar Fairgrounds
(San Diego Union Tribune)

Plans for the 2021 San Diego County Fair will start to come into focus next month, Del Mar Fairgrounds board members said during their Oct. 20 online meeting.

The 2020 fair was canceled due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, along with every other large event that provides most of the revenue for the state-owned fairgrounds.

As the pandemic continues, fairgrounds board member Frederick Schenck said that the board has to figure out “how to move forward and provide a meaningful summer fair.” The board might consider a drive-in fair, depending on some of the significant variables in play. The COVID-19 case rate in San Diego County and how severe the restrictions on gatherings will be next year are some of the factors that will determine their course of action.

“Were going to do everything we can to make it a safe and well-run summer fair,” said Schenk, who serves as chair of the board’s Fair Operations Committee. “It may not look like it did for the last 11 years that I was involved.”

It’s still to be decided whether the 2021 fair will have a typical month-long run or if there will be restrictions on how many people can be in attendance. Financial projections for the fair are also to be determined.

In addition to the fairgrounds, which has seen its revenue projections drop approximately 90% over the past several months, the city of Del Mar is awaiting the return of large, money-making gatherings. A sizable portion of the city’s tax revenue comes from the county fair and other events at the fairgrounds.

Since March, when the new public health regulations caused the fairgrounds to clear its events calendar, the venue has adjusted to the pandemic by holding drive-in events, including concerts and movie screenings that have helped keep it afloat financially. For Halloween, the fairgrounds is holding a drive-thru “Scream Zone.”

Approximately 60% of the full-time workforce at the fairgrounds has been laid off. Board members said some of them have been able to find new positions with other state agencies, and several have found jobs in the private sector. Almost all seasonal and temporary positions have also been eliminated.

A report by Katie Mueller, fairgrounds chief business services officer, said “2020 has been an unprecedented year.”

It continued, “2021 will be a year of new experiences and opportunities. It is imperative that the new fair feels just as comfortable and memorable to our loyal patrons as previous, beloved, San Diego County Fairs.”

The theme of the 2021 fair would be Heroes Unite, which was supposed to be the theme in 2020.