DEL MAR — The Del Mar Fairgrounds will be transformed into a new “fun-tier” in June 2017 for “How the West Was Fun,” the theme for next year’s San Diego County Fair.
Deputy General Manager Katie Mueller, who made the announcement at the Sept. 13 meeting of the 22nd District Agricultural Association board of directors, said the idea came from a survey of past fairgoers and fairgrounds staff.
Exhibits and activities will include a cattle drive, panning for gold, camping out on the prairie and drinking sarsaparilla and other libations at a Wild West saloon complete with an old-fashioned player piano.
Fairgoers can expect to encounter famous outlaws such as Jesse James or Black Bart and meet the fearless women of the West, including Calamity Jane and Annie Oakley. They will also learn how to saddle up, rope and ride man’s best friend of the time.
The Old West, or Wild West, refers to the late 1800s and early part of the 20th century. The fair will provide a historical tie-in, especially with local celebrities such as Kit Carson.
“But we really want to focus on having fun,” Mueller said. “It will appeal to little ones who have always wanted to be cowboys or cowgirls when they grow up.”
The theme will feature pop culture and fictional and nonfictional heroes such as John Wayne, Will Rogers and Clint Eastwood, as well as big and small screen characters including the Cartwright family from “Bonanza,” Woody from “Toy Story,” the Lone Ranger and the cast of “Little House of the Prairie.”
There will be a quick “draw” contest for artists, cowboy poetry, ghost towns, Western arts, crafts and costumes, recognition of the Native American contribution to the Wild West, a beard and moustache contest, cow chip bingo, a chuck wagon barbecue and bandanas for all, Mueller said.
Directors unanimously approved the theme and dates.
“I think you guys hit a home run here,” Director Steve Shewmaker said.
“I get to wear a petticoat again,” added Director Lisa Barkett.
The 2017 fair will begin at 4 p.m. June 2 and run through July Fourth. It will be closed the first four Mondays and three Tuesdays.