San Diego County Fair this way comes

Behold the midway at the Del Mar Fairgrounds/Dan Weisman

Strap on the fried food feed bag, bundle up the kids and get down to the Del Mar Fairgrounds — It’s San Diego County Fair go time again.

“How The West Was Fun” is this year’s theme at San Diego County Fair, harkening to its origins as an agricultural fair in 1880. The location moved from place to place for several years, finally settling on the Del Mar Fairgrounds in 1936. The fair will be open for 26 days, spread over five weekends, from June 2 through July 4.

“We are the longest running fair in North America,” said Tim Fennell, CEO, San Diego County Fair, “and the largest in California.” Fennell was excited by the Western theme and predicts it will be as big a hit as last year’s “Mad About The Fair,” an Alice in Wonderland meets Steampunk theme that broke attendance records with 1.6 million attendees.

Nothing new there, as the third largest fair in America seemingly breaks attendance records every year. Of course, you need to do your part to get that record in 2017.

“We welcome everybody at the fair,” said Fennell. “We expect people from not only the county but from all over the country.”

What would the fair be if not a chance to expand your culinary horizons — by which we mean waistline.

Ground Zero for all things battered, fried and food-related — Chicken Charlie’s/Dan Weisman

A sampling of this year’s gastronomic creations was on display for reporters last week — tough job —as fair organizers and sponsors whooped up excitement.

Leading the way as has been the case for 30 years is the venerable king of all food fried Chicken Charlie’s New offerings this year will include bacon-wrapped chicken legs and an Italian meatball slathered in peanut butter and sweet batter, then deep-fried and drizzled with peanut sauce.

But by far their biggest draw was a caloric monstrosity the likes of which has never been seen. Charlie Boghosian and crew conjured up a fried chicken patty topped with a two-inch-thick puck of Blue Bunny vanilla ice cream, nestled betwixt a splayed-open Krispy Kreme donut, all of it drizzled in syrup, topped with Fruity Pebbles and dusted with a puff of powdered sugar.

The “sandwich” — if it can even be called that — is the latest evolution of Chicken Charlie’s signature creation, the Krispy Kreme chicken sandwich that brought Boghosian widespread acclaim 12 years ago.

With more than 30 county fairs under his belt, Boghosian was pondering a few weeks ago how he could possibly raise the culinary bar yet again, and he teemed with pride as he handed over the plate.

“When I first took a bite — the very, very first time I had ice cream and chicken in the same bite — my mind stopped working,” he said. “Two or three seconds later I thought ‘What did I just eat, it’s amazing, I can’t wait for everyone to try it.’”

Race for the bacon, and by the bacon/Dan Weisman

If music is more your bag, this year’s headline acts in the Toyota Summer Concert Series include Toby Keith, Patti LaBelle, Darius Rucker, Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, Leann Rimes, Switchfoot, Grand Funk Railroad and Collective Soul.

On the comedy side, catch Trevor Noah, host of The Daily Show, on June 27 and Jeff Foxworthy on July 1.

And lest there be misgivings that the fair is all booze and bands, fair organizers played up the tried and true classics that fairgoers have come to count on. Top billing goes to 4H, the Future Farmers of America and the junior livestock auction, the fine art and photography exhibit, the ever-popular flower and garden show, and the exhibit California Grown, which will put on display how agriculture has evolved into its modern forms.

“It is a wonderful tradition that reminds us of our agricultural roots as we become a more urban environment,” Schenk said.

New this year, tying in with the theme, is a Western Exhibit Hall, several weekends of rodeo, country music, Frontier Town, a Wild West-themed space that will feature cowboy stunt shows and even an 1800’s-style gold rush hidden speakeasy.

The secret speakeasy, called The Jade Peacock, can only be accessed by invitation. “The only way to get in is to go to one of three or four specific bars like The Painted Pony, Spurs Spirits or the Into The Sunset Bar and get an invitation,” said Fennell, sneakily.

“On the card is a secret password that will change every day,” he said. The card will instruct the guest where to go meet an escort who will take them through a tunnel to the hidden bar, modeled after an old-time Speakeasy. The bar only holds 40-50 patrons at a time, serves special themed cocktails and will only be open during special hours.

Gondola up — a good way to get above it all/Dan Weisman

Flying U Rodeo, an “extreme rodeo” is booked June 10 and 11, the highlight of which is a “bull jumper.” There will also be “Bull Poker” where cowboys play poker at a card table and the last cowboy sitting at the table as a bull is rampaging around, is the winner. The version on

All of it culminates with a patriotic blowout celebration.

“On the Fourth of July, we plan to celebrate in grand fashion,” Fennell said, with a parade into the grandstand for a show that will include a World Trade Center first responder and the oldest living survivor of Pearl Harbor, “followed by the best fireworks in San Diego.”

The fair is closed on the first four Mondays (June 5, 12, 19 and 26) and the first three Tuesdays (June 6, 13 and 20).

For more, visit www.sdfair.com.

Yum/Dan Weisman

And yum/Dan Weisman

And…well…/Dan Weisman

1 Comment on "San Diego County Fair this way comes"

  1. The very best thing to see at the fair is the Design in Wood Exhibition. This is a juried exhibit of sculpture, furniture and other artistic wood items described as “the biggest and best woodworking exhibition in the country” by the editor of Fine Woodworking Magazine. National sponsors give awards of over $20,000 in prizes. Photos of the exhibits are published in many woodworking magazines. This is a unique and wonderful part of the fair, not to be missed.

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