Despite a two-year delay and an earlier start in May that was meant to help boost attendance at the LA County Fair, the number of paid guests who entered the turnstiles dropped about 13% this year, Fairplex officials announced Friday, June 3.
A total of 635,421 paying visitors attended the fair in Pomona during its 17-day run, which began May 5 and ended Monday, May 30, according to a statement from Fairplex. In 2019, the most recent year a full-scale fair was held before the pandemic, a total of 731,817 visitors attended during the 19-day run.
The fair reduced its complimentary and credentialed admissions this year, and educational programs such as FairKids Field Trips were paused, but those programs are not included in the total paid attendance figure, Fairplex said.
After the fair’s hiatus and switch to a new season, organizers “weren’t sure how the community would respond” but they’re pleased with this year’s attendance, Fairplex President and CEO Walter Marquez said Friday.
“Seeing that the figures for paid guests were on par with 2019 is good; however, it doesn’t compare to the thousands of smiling faces we witnessed throughout the fair,” Marquez said in a statement.
“People missed the fair and we were glad to be back, celebrating community together,” he continued.
After the coronavirus pandemic forced the cancellation of the 2020 and 2021 fairs, organizers decided to move the event to May to take advantage of cooler temperatures. In the past, the fair typically opened Labor Day weekend, when triple-digit temperatures are not uncommon.
The weather shifted almost every week in May, with opening day on Cinco De Mayo reaching a high of 80 degrees. By the fair’s third week, there were a few nights of slight drizzle.
The fair was open Thursday through Sunday, before closing on Memorial Day.
Based on guest surveys, the move to May was well received, with many fairgoers praising the weather, according to Fairplex.
Pomona Mayor Tim Sandoval said the fair’s lower attendance could be attributed to a number of factors, such as some people being unaware of the new date.
“Some people might think it’s (the fair) still in September,” Sandoval said by phone Friday. “Nonetheless, it’s a great start to the next 100 years. We had people itching to return to the fair from all over the region.”
With its “Back To Our Roots” theme, the fair celebrated and reflected on its first 10 decades, paying tribute to its humble beginnings in 1922 as a small agricultural exposition in a beet and barley field. Organizers focused heavily on nostalgia and tradition throughout the fair’s run.
As part of the celebration, the fair paid homage to its past with an exhibition in the Millard Sheets Art Center, featuring archival findings from fairgoers, as well as artists’ interpretations of the centennial. The Flower and Garden Pavilion commemorated the fair’s centennial through floral displays and vignettes.
The Ray Cammack Shows carnival returned for its 38th year at the fair, with more than 60 rides and games. For Chris Lopez, vice president of RCS, the 2022 fair showed a lot of promise.
“We didn’t know what to think when the fair announced its move to May from September,” Cammack said in a statement. “But we are all happy with the results and think the guests are, too. It’s a date that we can, and will, build on.”
Throughout the fair, weekend programming celebrated the diversity of LA County, spotlighting Latino, Black, Asian American and Pacific Islander heritage as well as the LGBTQ+ community.
This year also marked the return of animals raised by youngsters in 4-H and Future Farmers of America. In livestock competitions held for the first time since 2007, students showed their goats, sheep, llamas and more.
A bevy of animals were also born during the fair: one calf, 27 goats, 30 lambs and 45 chicks, according to Fairplex.
Guests donated 42,300 cans of non-perishable food on two Food Drive Fridays in exchange for free admission to the fair. More than 3,300 ticket donations were given to more than 40 community organizations.
When it came to food, guests consumed one truck-load of Crunchy Flamin’ Hot Cheetos and 20,000 pounds of turkey legs, according to data provided to Fairplex by a vendor.
Meanwhile, the fair’s concert series highlights included The Beach Boys, WAR, Juanes, Ramon Ayala, and ZZ Top.
For Fairplex in Pomona, resuming the fair, its signature event, signaled a return to regular programming after shifting gears the past two years.
In March 2020, the venue joined efforts in tackling the pandemic by hosting vaccination and COVID-19 testing clinics and, for a few months last year, temporary shelter for nearly 10,000 migrant children. With those days behind it, Fairplex is now scheduled to host a number of expos and community events through the end of the year.
As for the 2023 LA County Fair, it is slated to return next May, according to Renee Hernandez, the fair’s spokeswoman. Official dates and theme have yet to be announced, however.