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.

“Wizard of Oz” 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 through July 4.

The 2019 San Diego County Fair is scheduled to open at 4 p.m. Friday and will open at 11 a.m. for much of its duration. The fair will also be closed Mondays and Tuesdays throughout June.

“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 2019.

“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

Throughout the month, the fair will host performances by comedians Jim Gaffigan, Jeff Dunham and the Impractical Jokers, musicians Smokey Robinson, Pitbull and Simple Plan and multiple festivals celebrating beer, wine and gospel music. A full list of events can be found at

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.

The Fair’s 2019 summer concert series lineup features Smokey Robinson, Lindsey Stirling, Air Supply, Toby Keith, Trace Adkins, Creedence Clearwater Revisited, Los Tigres del Norte, the Wailers, Blood Sweat & Tears and many others.

Perhaps the year’s biggest attraction is none other than Pitbull, “Mr. Worldwide” himself, who is scheduled to take the Grandstand Stage on Saturday, June 29. The last time the Grammy-winning international superstar performed in town, he sold out the then-named Valley View Casino Center in 2017.

The 2019 San Diego County Fair Corona Grandstage Stage lineup

  • June 13: Creedence Clearwater Revisited; GA levels 3 and 5 are included with fair admission; reserved seats are $33-$44
  • June 14: Toby Keith, ticket prices are $44-$127*
  • June 15: Smokey Robinson, ticket prices are $28-$54*
  • June 16: Mariachi Del Sol at 6 p.m.; GA levels 3 and 5 are included with fair admission; reserved seats are $32-$44
  • June 20: The Tenderloins/Impractical Jokers, ticket prices are $34-$84*
  • June 21: AJR; GA levels 3 and 5 are included with fair admission; reserved seats are $51-$59.
  • June 22: 15th annual Gospel Festival: The Walls Group and the Clark Sisters at 7 p.m.; GA levels 3 and 5 are included with fair admission; reserved seats are $33-$44
  • June 23: Grupo Intocable; GA levels 3 and 5 are included with fair admission; reserved seats are $32-$44
  • June 27: Lindsey Stirling; GA levels 3 and 5 are included with fair admission; reserved seats are $49-$64*
  • June 28: Air Supply; GA levels 3 and 5 are included with fair admission; reserved seats are $33-$44*
  • June 29: Pitbull, ticket prices are $67-$89*
  • June 30: Los Tigres Del Norte, reserved seats are $39-$54; GA levels 3 and 5 are included with fair admission
  • July 2: Trace Adkins, ticket prices are $34-$49*
  • July 4: Brad Upton, 9:30 p.m. (opening act at 7:30 p.m., fireworks at 9 p.m.); GA levels 3 and 5 are included with fair admission; reserved seats are $32-$44
* dinner packages available

The 2019 San Diego County Fair Paddock Concert Series lineup (free with paid fair admission)

  • June 5: The Family Stone
  • June 6: Chuy Lizarraga
  • June 12: Big Brother & the Holding Company
  • June 13: Ivan & The Parazol
  • June 19: Blood, Sweat & Tears
  • June 20: Banda Machos
  • June 26: Bowzer and Johnny Contardo (formerly of Sha Na Na)
  • June 27: Who’s Bad
  • July 2: The Wailers
  • July 3: Canned Heat
  • July 4: Liquid Blue

The 2019 San Diego County Fair Solid Gold Concert Series (free with paid fair admission)

  • June 6: Felix Cavaliere’s Rascals
  • June 13: Charo in concert with special guest John Davidson
  • June 20: Tribute to Aretha Franklin & Friends
  • June 27: Rickie Lee Jones
  • July 4: Micky Dolenz

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.”

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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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