The theme of this year’s LA County Fair is “Back to Our Roots.” But as it begins its second century this week, it will be heading in a new direction.
Fairgoers enjoy the colorful Euro Side on the last day of the 2019 LA County Fair at the Fairplex in Pomona on Sunday, Sep 22, 2019. (Photo by Terry Pierson, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)
Fairgoers enjoy the last day of the 2019 LA County Fair at the Fairplex in Pomona on Sunday, Sep 22, 2019. The fair would not return for 2 1/2 years. (Photo by Terry Pierson, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)
Australian Battered Potatoes are returning to the LA County Fair in 2022. ( (2018 photo by Kelli Skye Fadroski, Orange County Register/SCNG)
Averie Pannell, 9 from Santa Fe Springs, digs into a bacon wrapped turkey leg on the opening day of the Bite-Sized Fair at Fairplex in Pomona in 2021. (Photo by Will Lester, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin/SCNG)
Turkey legs are on the grill on opening day of the Bite-Sized Fair at Fairplex in Pomona on Friday, Sept. 10, 2021. (Photo by Will Lester, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin/SCNG)
The fair has traditionally been a September event, founded in 1922 to show off the region’s agriculture during harvest time. But after a two-year hiatus due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, it is moving from fall to spring. Organizers believe cooler temperatures in May will increase attendance and make the experience more pleasant for fairgoers.
“Obviously, there is going to be much cooler, much better weather. Hopefully the public agrees and we make a new tradition,” said Schuyler MacPherson, whose family has had concessions at the fair for its entire history.
“I think that’s the way to look at it going forward. This is a new tradition. It’s a new time, and it’s something that has to happen.”
Schuyler knows a lot about the fair’s traditions. He can remember working his family’s concession, MacPherson’s Ice Cream, as a child. Back then, one of the big attractions was thoroughbred horse racing, which ended in 2014.
“When I was 5 or 6, I was taking money. We had a stand that was on the food circle, right across from the grandstand. We would get really busy for short periods of time because of the horse racing. Such fun, nostalgic memories. It really is like a time gone by.”
In a phone interview, MacPherson said his great-grandfather was a citrus grower and a restaurant owner who came to the first fair in 1922 to show off his produce and wound up selling fair food before there was such a thing.
“The first year we had ice cream and hamburgers and pickled eggs. They had a whole bunch of stuff that was popular at the time.”
MacPherson’s still sells ice cream, but pickled eggs fell out of favor with fairgoers a long time ago.
“I remember my grandparents talking about how after World War II those weren’t a big seller. Apparently, like always, times change.”
Here are five ways this year’s fair plans to keep up with the times.
There will be holiday celebrations
The fair used to kick off on Labor Day weekend. This year, opening day will be on Cinco de Mayo, and instead of a ribbon-cutting ceremony, there will be a piñata break.
The first four days will be designated Latin Heritage weekend, with live entertainment throughout the fairgrounds.
Thursday night’s headliner concert, a ticketed event, will be El Chicano and the funk band War, known for its 1975 album “Why Can’t We Be Friends” and its track “Low Rider.”
The kind of customized cars that song is about will be on display throughout the fair in an exhibit called “The Culture of the Low and the Slow.” It can be found near Expo Hall 4, according to the fair.
Opening weekend will end with Mother’s Day, which will be marked with a brunch 11 a.m.-1 p.m. on Picnic Hill, a high point on the fairgrounds that overlooks the carnival area and the lagoon. The menu includes a breakfast scramble, chicken picatta, penne pasta bake, fruit, lemon bars and brownies. Tickets are $39.99 and include fair admission and unreserved tickets to that evening’s Beach Boys concert.
The fair will celebrate Black achievement
Weekend 2 of the fair, May 13-15, will be “CEEM Takeover Weekend,” highlighting the work of the Cooperative Economic Empowerment Movement to support Black professionals and entrepreneurs.
This “tribute to Black excellence” will include live music and panels, Black-owned vendors and food trucks, Gospel Sunday and more, according to the fair’s website.
There will be of fun for and by young people
Opening weekend attractions will include the Sharp International Cheer & Dance Competitions on May 7 in Expo Hall 5. Tickets are $25 for people age 6 and older.
Free entertainment will be offered on four stages throughout the fairgrounds under the umbrella title NextFest LA, “emerging talent from all sound arenas.”
The fair is bringing back livestock competitions by members of Future Farmers of America and 4-H. Some of the barns in the Fairplex’s Farm area have been configured for livestock competitions.
The fairplex has also enlarged its petting zoo, according to its website.
Admission and parking are cashless
As in earlier Fairplex events during the pandemic, the LA County Fair has gone to cashless parking and admission. This system encourages fairgoers to make their purchases in advance on the event’s website. The fair, however, will provide cash-to-card machines at its blue and yellow entrances.
There is a service charge for online ticket purchases, but some adult tickets are discounted $5 when purchased in advance online, as is parking.
Don’t forget the fair food
Vendors such as Charlie Boghosian and Dominic Palmieri, the “Midway Gourmet,” seem eager to return to the Fairplex for for its first full-fleged county fair since 2019, even though both worked a smaller event in September called the Bite-Sized Fair.
Boghosian will be tempting fairgoers with his take on trendy crispy chicken sandwiches, made with cherry Kool-Aid,” at his Chicken Charlie’s concessions, while Palmieri will explore the outer limits of Flamin’ Hot Cheetos, using them to encrust a brioche bun for a cheeseburger at his Biggy’s concession.
The fair is putting together a value menu with several concessions offering items or drink combos for $7.70. Among them is Australian Battered Potatoes, which won an award at the OC Fair in 2018, and C&C Concessions, which will be servicing a barbecued pork sundae made with mashed potatoes and topped with a cherry tomato.
MacPherson expects to be at his ice cream stand in Building 9 most days, selling chocolate and vanilla soft-serve ice cream and Dole Whip. He said his space will be decorated with a neon sign from the 1930s.
“We’ve had such a wonderful time at the LA Fair over the years,” he said. “It was almost like a connecting piece in the family. It was like, ‘Oh do you remember when this happened.’
“And then you meet customers at the fair that you see every year. And of course these last few years it’s like, ‘Oh, I haven’t seen so-and-so.’ We’re waiting for everybody to come back and hear how they’re doing. We miss that.”
LA County Fair
When: May 5-30
Where: 1101 W. McKinley Ave., Pomona.
Hours: 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Thursday through Sunday.
Tickets: $15-$25 for adults, $8-12 for ages 6-12 and 60 and older. Multi-day passes are available. Parking is $15 online in advance, $20 at the gate.