The San Diego Fair

a.k.a. the Del Mar Fair

All’s been quiet on the western front as of late, and the only answer I have to the questions “what’s new with you?” or “what’ve you been up to?” is honestly, just work. I’ve been working more hours than I have in the past year lately, and the same can be said for Jason. Now, though, after his deadline has passed (for now) and the summer sun is out shining brightly, we’ve found a little more time to go outside.

At first, I didn’t think we’d be going to the fair this year, again (we didn’t go last year either, and that was a first for me). Luckily enough, I ran into a deal I couldn’t pass up and we scored our tickets for free. No excuses! And to be honest, as an SD native, I don’t think it’s ever officially summer until you’ve visited the SD Fair.

Get on the Bus!

We decided to skip the parking lot madness and hop on the bus at Torrey Pines HS - it’s closer to our home now, and we wouldn’t have to fight through the traffic surrounding the fair itself (by parking at the nearby horse park).

Parking was effortless, and there was only a 5-10 minute wait before it was our turn to load into the bus — mostly because we were arriving just as the fair was opening.

Newsflash: school buses have seatbelts now!

Did you guys know that?! Because it came as a surprise to me. Each bench had 2 seatbelts, and those ratty, torn bus seats were nowhere to be seen. The bus on our return trip wasn’t like this, though, so maybe the seat belt movement hasn’t reached all buses, but I thought that was a random surprise.

SD Fair /// www.doodiebearz.com

Our slow ride took us along the Del Mar coastline, and eventually dropped us off at the gates where there thankfully wasn’t a line - straight through security, and the emerald green gates were right before us. This year’s theme: Wizard of Oz.

SD Fair /// www.doodiebearz.com

The first thing that usually greets us is the themed exhibit. Inside are usually spunky photo ops and displays of information, so we took a quick stroll through the dark warehouse before re-focusing on our actual plan of attack on the one thing we actually came to the fair for: the food.

The sun was just starting to peak out behind the marine layer - it was a perfect day for the fair. The breeze was blowing and we weren’t burning in the sun, running around to find shade.

Oh yeah, the food.

First up: Australian Battered Potatoes - an essential. I can’t remember the last time I ever went to the fair and didn’t eat these potatoes. I did, however, notice the plate looking a bit more sparse than I remember in the past, but I guess that’s just a sign of the times: rising prices and shrinking portions. Even the fair isn’t immune.

SD Fair /// www.doodiebearz.com

We were also treated to a very impromptu band performance that popped up right in front of us as we stood at the table eating our fried potatoes — the interesting thing was, this wasn’t the only time that happened that day! The musical performances were following us.

SD Fair /// www.doodiebearz.com

Anywho, next order of business: drinks

The fair had a special beer from Hess this year: the Wizard of Haze, so that’s what we wanted to drink first. The fair had a huge bar this year, which was largely still empty by the time we made it over.

SD Fair /// www.doodiebearz.com

Bellies still full of potatoes and still filling up with beer, we decided to walk around the exhibit halls and wander around the stalls looking briefly at all the unique things being sold — this part never changes. Jacuzzi’s, fudge, jerky, and that stall that lets you pick out an oyster so you can keep its pearl… these were all familiar things.

We sat down on a bench in the garden area for a few moments, then lo and behold — pop-up band #2. They tooted and sang their way towards us, then little did we know they’d be setting up their gig right on the empty stage in front of us. We had front row seats, again.

Everything was fine and dandy, until they began singing Baby Shark, then I knew that was our sign to go.

SD Fair /// www.doodiebearz.com

While we weren’t hungry just yet, we’d finished the first beer we shared so we sauntered off to find another place to drink and people-watch. Off to the Blue Grass stage for some Blue Moons!

SD Fair /// www.doodiebearz.com

After wandering around the photography exhibit, we eventually decided it was time to finally eat again.

Next: Bacon and cheese pupusas

SD Fair /// www.doodiebearz.com

To be honest, it’s kind of hard to focus on anything with the loud fair kiosk graphics… my eyes kind of just glaze over all of the individual components on the signs.

Unfortunately, the pupusa was the most disappointing thing we had all day. Couldn’t even tell there was cheese in it, and it tasted like undercooked pita bread. meh 👎🏼

I swear every bacon-themed item we’ve had at the fair has been the biggest let down. One year, we had chocolate-covered bacon when it was just becoming all the rage. What we got was a frozen solid chunk of hard chocolate with a chewy strip of bacon inside - super unappetizing. 😒

Filled with disappointment and regret, we walked over to take a look at the animals but saw all of the enclosures closed with their windows blacked out. (It wasn’t until after we got back from the fair when we heard about the E. coli cases. SO sad.)

We could hear the sound of engines roaring the distance, so we made our way over to the arena and caught just the tail end of the monster trucks… but first, another drink.

SD Fair /// www.doodiebearz.com
SD Fair /// www.doodiebearz.com

FYI the cans are a better deal than getting a beer on tap - you get twice the beer for your money!

SD Fair /// www.doodiebearz.com

We were simultaneously running out of things to do (rides and games aren’t our thing), but I couldn’t leave the fair without having funnel cake.

SD Fair /// www.doodiebearz.com
SD Fair /// www.doodiebearz.com

Lesson learned - stick to the classics. The simple, good, old-fashioned funnel cake never lets you down. BUT I also noticed this was a lot skimpier than I remember in years past… sigh.

The last thing on our to-do list was the fair’s well-known “speakeasy”, the Wicked Wahine as it was called this year.

SD Fair /// www.doodiebearz.com

It didn’t open until 3pm so we wasted time until then, but when we approached the entrance and saw a line of 30 loud patrons also with the same idea in mind, we quickly turned around and decided to call it a day. There were real fine cocktails to be had outside the fair, if we so desperately wished, and so we snapped out of our fair-induced gluttonous haze and descended upon our return bus ride home.

Anyway, that was our day at the fair. Back home to our dog we went, to spend some quiet time with each other before the rest of the festivities we had planned for the remainder of the weekend. I’m glad we got the chance to go back, and while it’s almost always the same thing, it kind of grounds you and brings you back to all of the other years you’ve spent visiting the fair each summer.

SD Fair /// www.doodiebearz.com

It’s interesting to see it evolve, but also remain the same as you’ve remembered it. When you used to come with your parents and they bought you that inflatable purple alien… to the time you came as a teenager (and also the last time you ever went on a ride that would probably make you puke your guts out now)… to an age when you could finally blow your money on drinks at the fair, instead of ride tickets. Certain things remain the same: the exhibitor halls, the photography and fine art, the zoo animals, and most importantly, the food. It’s neat to be able to notice how you’ve grown while other traditions remain the same.