DEL MAR — A month after the conclusion of the 2022 San Diego County Fair, officials have already set the theme and dates for next year’s event, inspired by the region’s stellar outdoor recreation and camping opportunities.
The 22nd District Agricultural Association, the state board managing the fairgrounds in Del Mar, unanimously approved the 2023 fair theme “Get Out There!” and dates running from June 7 to July 4 at its Tuesday meeting.
Fairgrounds Chief Operating Officer Katie Mueller said staff got to work on developing ideas for next year’s fair and selected one that celebrates San Diego County’s climate and outdoors, “from the pines to the palms.”
“I love this theme because it’s a real call to action,” Mueller told the board. “What you’re going to see is a celebration of the diversity of outdoor activities that we have in San Diego County and beyond. Picture summer camp meets the start of summer.”
Alongside the usual carnival and grandstand performances, attendees can expect vendors offering re-imagined campfire snacks, exhibitions honoring the state and national parks, and opportunities for traditional summer camp activities like scavenger hunts, arts and crafts and relay races.
An accompanying logo for the 2023 fair depicts a Ferris wheel against the backdrop of mountains, pine trees and palm trees, and an image of a pitched camping tent.
“We’re looking forward to next year and creating a fun, memorable experience the whole family can take part in together, and we hope to help inspire guests to ‘get out there’ and explore some of the natural beauty around us both near and far,” said Fairgrounds CEO Carlene Moore.
Next year’s season will run Wednesdays through Sundays throughout June and be closed Mondays and Tuesdays, except the fair’s last week in July. As a result, the 2023 fair will run one day longer than this year’s 21-day stretch.
The fairgrounds didn’t stop with planning for 2023, though. Breaking the mold of previous years, staff also presented the proposed theme for the 2024 fair, “Let’s Go Retro,” to the board on Tuesday.
Fair officials said they are trying to move away from annual fair planning and instead take a longer view to get ahead of competing fairs throughout the country. Board Vice President Frederick Schenk explained that many entertainers often book their performances up to 18 months in advance.
“This is kind of groundbreaking for us, but it is so important,” said Schenk. “A fair takes at least 10 months to begin planning, but an even better fair takes even longer. By approving this theme, you’re allowing our staff to begin the thought process for the  fair.”
Mueller said the “Let’s Go Retro” theme would be reminiscent of the colorful aesthetics of the 60s, 70s and 80s and could be tied into the fair entertainment in a way that hasn’t been done in years past.
Board members ultimately decided to table a vote on the 2024 theme until a future meeting after expressing concerns about rushing into plans and not giving staff enough time to incorporate attendee feedback from the past fair.
Officials said planned dates and a logo for the 2024 fair would also be announced later this fall.
Officials were pleased with the outcome of the most recent fair, which concluded July 4 and saw approximately 973,000 attendees, just under their attendance goal of 1,000,050 after a two-year hiatus caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Moore said they were able to deliver an all-around successful fair despite hiring challenges in the months leading up to the event and complications presented by inflation and the new COVID-19 variant.
“We were in the process of responsibly regrowing our full-time staff, not to mention the 1,200 or so folks needed to produce the San Diego County Fair,” Moore said. “We delivered on a pre-pandemic fair with, in essence, pandemic-sized staff.”
A financial report outlining revenue from the 2022 fair will be presented to the 22nd DAA board at their October meeting.
For more information about the San Diego County Fair, visit sdfair.com.