The Orange County Fair around Costa Mesa is an annual 23-day fair held at the OC Fair & Event Center in Costa Mesa. The theme for the 2023 OC Fair will be announced shortly.
It was first held in 1890. The fair featured minor exhibits in Santa Ana as well as a horse race. The fair was operated by the Orange County Community Fair Corporation from 1890-1894. It was later taken over by Orange County Fair Association, Inc. The fair began as a horse race and livestock show. However, the fair became a regular annual event with around 1900 carnival-like attractions. Except for a short period after World War I, the fair was held in Santa Ana. It was then moved to Huntington Beach.
The Orange County Farm Bureau managed the fair since 1916. In 1925, the Orange County Fair Board was formed. The fair was then moved to Anaheim, where it was expanded with a rodeo as well as a carnival. The fair was held in Pomona from 1932-1939 as part of the combined Orange, Los Angeles and Riverside County Fair. The state of California created the 32nd District Agricultural Association after World War II. It assumed the responsibility of managing the fair. The state bought land from Santa Ana Army Air Base, and put some aside to be used as fairgrounds. The fair was a five-day event that began in 1949. It was then moved to the old army base. This became its permanent home.
In 1953, Costa Mesa became a city. The fair was located within its borders. Since 1949, the fairgrounds have been home to the fair on 150 acres. The fair has now expanded to an annual 23-day summer event.
The 2020 fair was cancelled on April 27, 2020, for the first time since 1975. This was in response to the COVID-19 epidemic. Since 2021, hand sanitizers have been installed in the premises to stop this pandemic spreading. Social distancing and wearing masks is also being observed. It was also cancelled for 1917-18 and 1942-45.
Arnold Schwarzenegger, the then Governor of Orange County, recommended that the fairgrounds be sold in May 2009. Schwarzenegger had determined that the fairgrounds were not being used or surplus to their potential. However, the Fair attracts more than 1 million visitors annually and is used almost every day with numerous community activities. OC Weekly reported that “What followed was a story about deceit by a small group within the fairgrounds hierarchy.
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