The LA County Fair returns this week, after years of pandemic-induced delays.
The return of the fair at the Fairplex in Pomona also means the return of fried Oreos, carnival games and pig races. And for the first time, the fair will take place in May, just in time to celebrate its 100th anniversary.
The buzz has been building at the fairgrounds for weeks, Fairplex CEO and President Walter M. Marquez said during a tour last week. After shifting entertainment gears, he said, organizers are ready to “welcome audiences back to a place where memories are made.”
The fair’s return comes after a two-year hiatus due to the coronavirus pandemic, including a smaller event in September called the Bite-Sized Fair.
“For the past two years we’ve been focused on meeting the needs of the community, it’s been great, but we’re happy to be back doing what we do best: hosting events and bringing the community to celebrating all that a county fair brings,” Marquez said. “Nothing beats the fair.”
This year’s event will run from May 5-30 and only operate Thursday through Sunday, opening with a weekend celebration of Cinco de Mayo and ending on Memorial Day. Highlights from the fair’s concert series include The Beach Boys, WAR, Juanes, Ramon Ayala and ZZ Top.
In the past, the fair usually opened on Labor Day weekend. This year’s spring event is a departure from the sweltering Septembers and with that comes optimism for more comfortable weather and more visitors. Attendance expectations should match those of 2019, said Marquez, which saw more than 1.1 million people visit.
Opening day in 2019 midday temperatures hit the mid-90s, this year on Thursday a high of 80 degrees is expected.
This year and the spring start also brings new programming.
“We get to open Cinco de Mayo, we have Mother’s Day, graduations, it creates a whole new opportunity,” Marquez said. “There is something here for everyone.”
Opening week will include Latin heritage entertainment, a Mother’s Day brunch and resident discounts.
Residents of Pomona get admission for $1 on opening day May 5, similarly for residents of La Verne the next day, May 6, while residents of LA County get admission for $10 on Saturday May 7. Tickets must be purchased online prior to admission day at countyfair. com.
Other events during the run of the fair include the international Sharp Cheer & Dance competitions on May 7th.
Weekend 2, May 13-15, will be “CEEM Takeover Weekend,” highlighting the work of the cooperative economic empowerment movement to support Black professionals and entrepreneurs. This includes live music and signs, black-owned vendors and food trucks, Gospel Sunday and more, according to the fair’s website.
The Future Farmers of America competition returns to the fair this year — the first time since 2007 — where students will showcase their animals, according to Fairplex spokeswoman Renee Hernandez.
The public can also expect larger petting zoo areas to address crowd control concerns and a new open location for pig racing. More than 100 animals will be part of this year’s petting zoo, all from Cal Poly Pomona.
More than 130 food stalls will be on site this year, including new crispy chicken sandwiches made with Cherry Kool-Aid at Chicken Charlie’s. Tony Boghosian, whose brother Charlie owns the business, said they hoped the cooler weather would be an advantage.
“The client won’t have that factor of dealing with sweat and heat,” Boghosian said. “Cooler weather is always better for eating.”
As part of the fair’s 100th anniversary celebration, the fair will pay homage to its past with an exhibition at the Millard Sheets Art Center, featuring archival finds from visitors, as well as interpretations from centennial artists. Meanwhile, the Haunt Show exhibit returns and will feature its 100 Years of Monsters museum.
The pavilion of flowers and gardens, which is also celebrating its 70th anniversary, commemorates the centenary through floral compositions and vignettes.
“Everything on display came from inspiration from what we’ve done in the past and how we think about it,” said Marcus Pollitz, designer of flower and garden pavilions. “It’s important to know everything that happened here at the LA County Fair, as well as the history of flowers and gardens.”
“Coming back for our 100th anniversary is special, but also being SoCal’s first fair instead of the last is special,” Marquez said, mentioning the Orange and San Francisco county fairs. Diego which start in June. “Now we can kick off the fair season in Southern California, we can get used to it.”