DEL MAR — With less than three weeks remaining until the start of the 2022 San Diego County Fair, the 22nd District Agricultural Association is encouraging residents to buy admissions and parking tickets online ahead of time in anticipation of sellout days and new attendance limits.
The nation’s largest county fair — typically drawing around 1.5 million people — kicks off June 8 and lasts until July 4, running Wednesdays through Sundays at the Del Mar Fairgrounds.
This is the first full-scale iteration of the fair in three years, after being canceled in 2020 and largely pared down in 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Most notably, this year will bring the return of the beloved Midway carnival, the planning for which has been embroiled in conflict due to an ongoing lawsuit over the Fairgrounds’ master carnival contract awarding process. While ticket sales were briefly halted due to an injunction, all proceedings have been stayed until after the fair is over, with multiple vendors set to operate the carnival’s rides and games.
Despite the ongoing legal dispute, both Talley Amusements and RCS will have rides at the fair, along with several other independent operators. For games, Talley will operate 40% and RCS will operate 60%, a spokesperson told The Coast News.
This year’s fair theme, Heroes Reunite, was partially inspired by the ongoing coronavirus crisis, with 50 local “heroes” nominated by the community set to be honored throughout the fair.
“Back in 2020, we had planned for a fair that was Heroes Unite, and after everything we have gone through the past two years, it seemed even more important this year,” said Fairgrounds CEO Carlene Moore. “A big part of our theme is to celebrate our community heroes.”
Unlike past years when up to 90,000 people have been admitted to the fairgrounds in one day, the fair will operate under a self-imposed daily attendance limit of 50,000 people, according to Moore.
“This is a significant change. We believe this is a number that we can safely service and host and really provide the level of service we seek…at the San Diego County Fair,” Moore told the Del Mar City Council during a presentation about the fair on Tuesday. “We hope this will help spread our attendance over the weeks.”
Due to the lower attendance limit, several days of the fair are expected to sell out ahead of time, particularly on the weekends and the Fourth of July when the highly-anticipated fireworks show closes out the fair.
This year, all admission and onsite parking tickets are only available for purchase online at sdfair.com, with admission prices ranging depending on the day. To incentivize residents to come during the week, the fair is offering discounts for Wednesday and Thursday admission.
Admission varies from $15 to $20 for ages 13 to 61 and $12 to $17 for ages 62 and up and youth ages 6 to 12, who also get free admission on Fridays. Youth ages 5 and under enter free of charge on all days.
Single-day parking options include $30 preferred parking close to the entrance and $15 general parking including the main lot, Solana Gate entrance or the Horsepark, available on a first-come, first-serve basis. Free parking will also be available at Torrey Pines High School at 3710 Del Mar Heights Road with a shuttle service to the fair.
Moore said the new parking plans, including the use of the Horsepark and Torrey Pines High School, are intended to limit negative impacts from increased traffic in the main area of Del Mar.
“In the past, we have used the [horse track] really for overflow parking for the weekends. This year we will actually be working on it every day of the fair,” she said, noting that this will free up 600 additional parking spaces at the Fairgrounds.
Public transportation options will also be available. The North County Transit District will bring back the NCTD Fair Tripper Package, which offers roundtrip transportation as well as single-day fair admission.
Carnival ticket packages are also sold online, with options for 20- to 100-ticket FunPasses usable for rides and games as well as an unlimited ride wristband available only for Wednesdays and Thursdays. Discounts are available for these offers if bought ahead of time, with the price increasing after June 8.
Fifteen Grandstand performances are lined up for this year’s Toyota Summer Concert Series at the Corona Grandstand Stage, starting with Jason Derulo on June 8 and followed by performances from Prince Royce on June 9, Shaggy on June 10, For King and Country on June 15, Goo Goo Dolls on June 25, and Enanitos Verdes on July 3, among others. Tickets for these shows are available online and range from around $20 to $45 depending on the seat.
The fair also offers a Paddock Concert Series featuring tribute bands for iconic favorites including Guns N’ Roses, Johnny Cash, Queen, Led Zeppelin, Selena and Queen. Admission to these shows is free.
Enjoyers of beer, wine and spirits can partake in three different festivals taking place during the fair, including the Toast to the Coast Wine Festival on June 11 in the Paddock ($30 general admission), the San Diego International Beer Festival on June 18 and 19 in the Del Mar Arena ($60 general admission), and the Distilled Spirit and Cocktail Festival on July 2 in the Garden Area ($35 general admission).
Fair hours are 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Wednesdays, Thursdays and Sundays and 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. The Del Mar Fairgrounds are located at 2260 Jimmy Durante Boulevard.
For more information about tickets and activities at the fair, visit sdfair.com.