DEL MAR — The San Diego County Fair will be two days longer in 2012 than it has been for nearly the past decade. The 22nd District Agricultural Association board of directors approved the extension at its Oct. 11 meeting with the understanding that staff will return in November with a report detailing efforts to promote public transit to the event and a cross-marketing plan with area businesses.
Factors such as when schools end for summer break determine the schedule for the fair, which traditionally starts on a Friday and closes July 4 to provide adequate time to prepare for the horse race meet.
With the upcoming leap year and continued record-breaking attendance, Tim Fennell, chief executive officer, recommended the extra days as a way to spread out attendance and possibly reduce traffic.
Del Mar City Council members doubted that logic, saying more fair dates would result in more traffic.
Representatives from both sides, as well as adjacent Solana Beach, met to work out a plan that was agreeable to all sides, Fennell said.
Fairgrounds officials will find ways to expand the number of free off-site parking locations and continue offering a ticketing incentive program through North County Transit District to encourage fairgoers to use public transportation.
In response to complaints from Del Mar Mayor Don Mosier about dirt and trash on Jimmy Durante Boulevard, fairgrounds officials committed to keeping the roadway clean in a plan included in the staff report.
Mosier acknowledged in the meetings that a report from several years ago indicted there is a slight revenue enhancement for Del Mar.
“What was not said is that the revenue does not cover the city’s expenses in dealing with fair impacts,” Mosier said. “The city of Del Mar is trying to work with the 22nd DAA and the new board members, and the first conversations have been encouraging.”
“The fair is extremely popular and it’s getting more popular,” Fennell said, noting a 5.6 percent increase in fair attendance last year and a 10 percent increase in the county’s population in the past decade.
“Our fair is very successful and with any successful event there will be traffic issues,” he said.
Fennell said he will also work with programming to ensure well-attended events are not scheduled on the same day.
This year the International Beer Festival and Gospel Festival were both held June 25. After determining parking lots would not be able to accommodate the traffic that was on the freeway, law enforcement closed both Via de la Valle off ramps for several hours.
Solana Beach Mayor Lesa Heebner said she wasn’t happy about the additional days because of the negative impacts on local residents and businesses, but she was encouraged by the “gentleman’s agreement” to promote public transit and cross-marketing that will offer discounts to area restaurants and shops when fair patrons present ticket stubs.
When the fair began in 1947 it was a 10-day event that attracted 234,297 visitors. It was first extended, by one day, in 1964 and has continued to expand about every five to seven years since. This year 1,412,113 people attended the 22-day event.
Next year’s fair will run June 8 through July 4 but be dark on Mondays in June.