By Joe Tash
The good news is that some of the food booths at this year’s San Diego County Fair, which starts Friday, June 8, will be offering healthier fare for those counting calories or watching their cholesterol.
But the better news for everyone else is that a fairgrounds tradition of frying anything that can be speared on a stick will continue full throttle this year.
Deep-fried peanut butter-and-jelly sandwiches and Trix cereal are the newest entries in the artery clogging demolition derby that is the fair’s collection of food concessions. Too light for your taste? How about chicken fried steak on a stick?
And don’t forget the cured meats. “Bacon, bacon and more bacon” is the watchword, according to Donna Ruhm, fairgrounds concessions manager. One food booth (located near the infield bridge) will offer turkey legs wrapped in a full pound of bacon — called the “Caveman Turkey Club.”
Ruhm and other fairgrounds staff gave a preview of what to expect during this year’s county fair at Tuesday’s meeting of the 22nd District Agricultural Association board.
The gates officially open at 11 a.m. on Friday, for a 24-day run through July 4. This year’s run will include two more days than in 2011, and fairgrounds officials are hoping for record-breaking attendance of more than 1.5 million, said Linda Zweig, fairgrounds spokeswoman. Last year, 1.412 million guests passed the fair’s turnstiles.
Admission will be $13 for adults, the same as last year, but according to Zweig, many options exist for fairgoers to avoid paying full price for tickets. On opening day and Tuesday, June 12, $4 discount tickets will be available at Albertson’s stores with a minimum $10 purchase. And for people not satisfied with one — or two or three — visits can buy a run-of-the-fair pass for $24.
This year will also be the last that smoking will be allowed on the fairgrounds; four designated smoking areas will be available, down from five smoking areas last year. At its meeting in May, the fair board voted to ban smoking completely starting with the 2013 fair.
Ruhm said 82 rides will be offered at this year’s fair, along with 60 midway games. Revenue goals are $7 million from rides and $14 million in food sales, Ruhm said.
Fairgoers will be able to peruse and buy merchandise from 500 vendor booths set up in various locations on the fairgrounds.
Special exhibits on space exploration and astronomy and “Area Fifty-Fun,” devoted to popular culture about space aliens, will be tied to the theme of this year’s fair, “Out of this World.” Visitors can take photos at an alien crash site set up on the infield.
For the first time, a wine festival will be held on Saturday, June 9, from 1-5 p.m. The San Diego International Beer Festival will be back with five sessions running from June 22-24.
Also new to the fair will be an exhibit titled “Our Body: The Universe Within,” which will be open every day of the fair in the Surfside Race Place. A separate $7 admission fee is required.
Last week, fairgrounds officials announced a new service called the “shopper shuttle,” a van that will carry visitors from the fairgrounds to Del Mar and Solana Beach and back, each day during the fair’s run from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.
During its run, the fair will be closed every Monday except July 2.