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San Diego Fair's Western Theme A Hit

Wednesday, July 19, 2017   (0 Comments)

by Brad Weissberg | Venues Today

A slight decrease in attendance doesn’t mar a great 2017 Del Mar Fair

It’s a wrap for the San Diego County Fair, Del Mar, California’s largest and longest running fair.

“It was outstanding,” said Tim Fennell, CEO, San Diego County Fair. “It was super from the cattle drive (through downtown San Diego) through the (4th of July) fireworks and everything in between.”

The fair’s gross sales totalled $42 million and Fennell expects to net “north of $10 million,”
with operating expenses of,‘below $32 million.”

Attendance was 1,565,933, which was 2.5 percent lower than last year’s record-breaking numbers. Fennell attributes the downturn to a price increase at the gate and some fear from the Hispanic community about U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

“We had someone putting out stuff in Facebook, geared toward the Hispanic community, saying they would be ICE targets at the fair, which was totally inaccurate,” explained Fennell. “It was some local-yokel just out to scare people.”

Highlights were the Toby Keith and Darius Rucker grandstand concerts, both ticketed events. Toby Keith was a homerun, said Fennell. “He’s not an inexpensive artist, but he puts butts in the seats. His show was sold-out and incredible. It’s nice to go to the bank after one of those paid shows” Fennell said, adding that on a personal note Keith’s concert was “one of the best concerts I’ve ever seen.”

Fennell was thrilled with the reaction to this year’s theme, “Where The West Was Fun”.

“The Western theme exhibit was wildly embraced by the fairgoers,” said Fennell. “We had a great reaction to our Western hall display. We had our cowboy hats and badges and the guests felt like they were in the Old West.”

Fennell was also impressed with the reaction to the “hidden speakeasy,” The Jade Peacock. “The invitation-only bar was a great success both in terms of marketing and financially,” he said, adding that the fair will emulate that success next year with a similar concept.

Fennell said that the food hits of the year were bacon wrapped cactus, peanut meatballs, pineapple sausage and lime rice and, the biggest seller, the crispy cream chicken ice cream sandwich.

Concessionaires did about $19 million and their on-site concessionaire, Premier, did another $4.8 million.

The fair employed coupon books again this year and the discount vouchers for food and rides were a great success, up 10.3 percent from last year.

The carnival is independent and the fair had 13 different operators with Ray Cammack Shows being the biggest.

Fennell said all of the mini-festivals inside the fair, including the beer festival, wine festival, spirit festival, gospel festival, mariachi festival, Asian festival and the LGBTQ-event, Out At The Fair, all went well.

The fair’s biggest sponsor is supermarket chain Albertsons/Vons and car company Chevrolet.

Fennell was thrilled with the cattle drive promotion that saw 200 head of cattle and 40 riders pass through downtown San Diego. “The cattle drive was a great event and pretty spectacular. I’m proud of all my people and the coordination. It got us a lot of promotion. It was challenge getting all the permits, but well worth the effort.”

Other memorable shows included Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons; Patti LaBelle; Jeff Foxworthy; Trevor Noah; Dan + Shay and all the Hispanic acts, most notably, Calibre 50, who had the biggest attendance of any of the shows at around 15,000 people.

Next year’s theme is already picked out, Fennell said. “It’s a great one and we’re already excited about it and making marketing plans. We’re going to put on our thinking caps and have great fun.” The theme will be revealed in September.

Next year’s fair will start on Friday, June 1, and run through Wednesday, July 4th.
Fennell anticipates that fair running 26-27 days. “We’ll probably be closed on Mondays and Tuesdays for the first few weeks,” he said.