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Around 45,000 people a day could go to the Orange County Fair in person this summer, as positivity rates go down and more people get vaccinated amid a Coronavirus pandemic that forced the annual showcase of food and rides to go virtual last year. 

The announcement came the same day that Gov. Gavin Newsom expanded vaccine eligibility for more Orange County residents — with nearly everyone qualifying for the shot by next month, under new guidelines. 

Although he warned at a Thursday news conference in Santa Ana that neither the county nor state are in the clear yet: 

“When you say, ‘pull off your mask, go back to normal,’ that’s when the virus takes back control,” Newsom said to reporters. 

The in-person fair, with capacity restrictions in place, will likely see 45,000 fairgoers in attendance per day at the fairgrounds in Costa Mesa, according to OC Fair spokesperson Terry Moore. 

“That’s what we’re currently looking at,” Moore said, adding that officials are “hopeful” that the capacity limit could be expanded to host more people daily as officials get closer to opening day. 

It’s tentatively slated to open July 16 and run through Aug. 15. 

“Alternative dates are being considered and if conditions warrant, we could hold a drive-through Fair experience,” Moore said after the fair’s Governor-appointed Board of Directors mulled over their in-person reopening strategies at a Thursday morning meeting. 

Due to ongoing health risks, masks will be required, increased sanitization measures will be implemented, attendance will be limited and reservations will have to be made online this year for people to go.

But if the virus situation worsens, Moore and Fair Board directors said the fair’s date and in-person status could change as well. 

An alternative date could be a fair run from Aug. 25 through Sept. 19. 

“But that is tentative, of course,” Moore said in a Thursday text message. 

Things that still need to be ironed out include officials’ plans for live entertainment during the fair: 

“Just figuring out the logistics of entertainment, that’s something that needs to be figured out (concerts) it’s still in the works to figure out what the capacity could be and whether to put certain shows on sale,” Moore said in a Thursday phone interview.

Like most fairs up and down the state, the Orange County Fair and Events Center saw some financial challenges as a result of restricted fairgrounds events over the last year. But not to the extent of smaller fairgrounds, as Orange County’s is one of the largest and most profitable in the state.

The agency sits on tens of million of cash reserves. 

Reopening the fair in-person this year could generate net proceeds of $10 million, Moore said.

Brandon Pho is a Voice of OC reporter and corps member at Report for America, a GroundTruth initiative. Contact him at bpho@voiceofoc.org or on Twitter @photherecord.

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