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San Diego County Fair
Talley Amusements has protested its losing bid to provide midway operations at the upcoming San Diego County Fair. File photo
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Midway operator protests losing bid for San Diego County Fair

DEL MAR — While the 22nd District Agricultural Association remains hopeful that the San Diego County Fair will be held in some capacity in 2021, one more roadblock was thrown in its way prior to their meeting to award a contract to a midway carnival operator.

The fair board was prepared to award a winning bid to Ray Cammack Shows, who was awarded last year’s bid before the fair was canceled due to COVID-19. However, the losing bidder, Talley Amusements of Fort Worth, Texas, filed a protest the day before a Feb. 23 special board meeting.

“Now that a bid protest has been filed, the board can not take any action in awarding a contract at this time,” said Josh Caplan, legal counsel for the state board. “We simply need to wait until [the Department of General Services] has resolved the bid protest and that process has been completed.”

In the past, the San Diego County Fair has hosted an independent midway with rides from various operators including Wood Entertainment, Ray Cammack Shows, Helm & Sons, Talley Amusements, S&J Entertainment, and many others, according to a release.

However, the 22nd DAA board issued a letter of intent seeking a single midway operator in October 2020.

Caplan said that they do not know the timing of when DGS will be able to resolve the bid, noting that through the COVID-19 pandemic, resolutions of this nature have been slower to come.

The board says they will continue to assess their options recognizing the protest process could potentially take months to resolve. While that makes things more complicated with the fair still scheduled for this June, the board remains hopeful they still have time to work out contingencies.

“Part of the options we could explore could be potentially continuing on with an independent midway for this year if we are able to have carnival rides,” said Interim Board CEO Carlene Moore. “I think there are several options that we’ll be looking at.”

The losing bidder, Talley Amusements, spoke at the meeting making their feelings on the matter known to the public.

“I can emphasize and express how excited we have been having this opportunity to submit a proposal for this single-source carnival contract,” said Mary Talley, vice president of Talley Amusements. “Our attorney filed a written protest in person that will be followed by our full formal protest that will not only layout the reasons why we are the highest scoring proposer but will also show how our competitor failed to follow the rules and format.”

Regardless of this protest process, it remains unclear what the midway would look like at the fair if it were indeed held in 2021. Discussions have taken place regarding having the fair become more of a drive-thru experience this year with food and livestock but no final decisions have been made in those regards.

The board took no action regarding the midway this week pending the DGS review of the protesting bid.