Orange County’s 23-day fair might be a no-go this year.
The OC Fair and Events Center Board of Directors at an April 27 meeting could cancel the state agency’s key moneymaker through admissions sales, concessions, and special events.
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The possible cancellation falls in line with other fairs across the state wary of public health guidelines discouraging mass gatherings for months, at least, as people are already staying at home to help stop the spread of the coronavirus.
County fairs that have opted to cancel this year include San Diego County’s at the neighboring Del Mar Fairgrounds, and Contra Costa County in the San Francisco Bay Area.
In neighboring Los Angeles County, no plans have been made yet to cancel its September fair.
The OC Fair, with a spending budget of more than $50 million for 2020, was anticipating nearly $40 million from fair revenue, according to this year’s budget.
“We are currently assessing all this information,” OC Fair Communications Director Terry Moore said when asked whether fair officials had an estimate on losses resulting from the cancellation, and what its fiscal stability plan could look like as a consequence.
There’s also a question of what the cancellation means for prospective seasonal employees hoping for work at the fair over its 23-day period, and Moore didn’t have an answer as of Wednesday as to how many workers were budgeted to be hired this summer.
The fair typically hires between 1,300 and 1,500 part-time seasonal employees, most of whom work the fair season.
State, county and fair officials were also eyeing the 150-acre property as a patient overflow site to help ease the strain on local hospitals in the event of a case surge.
But while the nearby Fairview Developmental Center has already been announced as an alternate care site, fair officials have yet to say anything else beyond an April 10 statement from the agency that travel trailers were being delivered to the property.
Before the coronavirus health crisis, fair officials were looking at raising admission prices this summer to deal with the prospect of higher operating costs like labor as a result of regional economic forces.
Fair Board directors in January backed off that proposal, but indicated price increases wouldn’t be off the table in future years.
The Fair Board directors’ April 27 meeting discussing the possible cancellation will happen via teleconference at 9:00 a.m.
Brandon Pho is a Voice of OC reporting fellow. Contact him at [email protected] or on Twitter @photherecord.