Orange County’s biggest community fair, the OC Fair, will be returning again this year with new additions to its attractions and fun. This year’s theme “Feel the Sunshine” welcomes the community back and highlights the summer bliss of the season.

The OC Fair dates back to 1890 when it started as a small community event featuring a horse race and small exhibits. Now, the fair is a 23-day festival taking place at the OC Fair & Event Center, which is 130 acres and filled with carnival games, rides, exhibits, food and live entertainment from mid-July to mid-August. 

The entrance to Orange County Fair in 1920. Credit: Photo courtesy of OC Fair & Event Center

While the OC Fair attracted 1.393 million visitors in 2019, the year before the pandemic hit the U.S. hard, the fair is limiting the capacity to 45,000 guests daily due to COVID-19. This capacity limit was set in place in 2021 after the fair had to cancel in 2020 for the first time since World War II.

Before You Go

Tickets must be purchased online in advance and will not be sold at the gate; tickets can be purchased at ocfair.com/oc-fair/buy-tickets/

Regarding updated health procedures, face masks are strongly recommended inside OC Fair buildings, enhanced sanitizing has been implemented in high-touch areas and employees have had additional health and safety training.

2022 OC Fair

Dates: July 15 to Aug. 14

Times: 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday from, 11 a.m.-midnight Fridays through Sundays, closed on Monday and Tuesday

Location: OC Fair & Event Center, 88 Fair Drive, Costa Mesa

Tickets: $5 to $14. General admission tickets are $12 on weekdays and $14 on weekends; tickets for seniors 60 years or older and children six to 12 are $7 all days. Parking is $10 for cars and motorcycles and $20 for buses and limos

Information:  (714) 708-1500, ocfair.com

“It is very similar to last year, we have continued to increase our sanitization process and we are a GBAC STAR certified event center,” said Terry Moore, communications director at OC Fair & Event Center. “That means that we have passed the highest training of protocols for dealing with contamination and viruses.”

GBAC STAR stands for Global Biorisk Advisory Council, which is a division of the International Sanitary Supply Association, also known as ISSA.

The OC Fair has also moved to more touchless technology such as touchless bag checks that can detect nefarious items such as weapons, and cash-free sales for things like food and parking, according to Moore. 

The 45,000-capacity limit includes guests who have purchased tickets to the Pacific Amphitheatre, Hangar and Action Sports Arena since these tickets include same-day fair admission.

“Last year, 17 of our 23 days sold out, that was the first time we ever limited capacity, and we’re doing the same thing this year,” Moore said. “It just gives people a much better experience; it’s not as crowded, parking isn’t as hard, impact on our neighbors isn’t as severe, everyone’s got a little more elbow room and lines are shorter.” 

Carissa Nguyen, 24, from Irvine said her family has been going to the OC Fair almost every year since she was 4 years old. Nguyen said the fair has always been a fun summertime activity for her whole family as there are a variety of different aspects that appeal to people in every age group.

“I’m glad to see that it’s back, but I will definitely still be taking precautions to avoid getting COVID like wearing a mask,” Nguyen said. 

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What to See and Do

Performances

The Pacific Amphitheatre, which is owned and managed by the OC Fair & Event Center, will be hosting the 2022 Toyota Summer Concert Series. The following acts are scheduled: 

  • July 15: Kool & the Gang with The Family Stone
  • July 16: Trevor Noah
  • July 17: Happy Together Tour, featuring The Turtles, Gary Puckett & The Union Gap, The Association, The Buckinghams, The Vogues and The Cowsills
  • July 20: Live to Rock Tour, featuring Skid Row, Quiet Riot, Warrant and Kip Winger
  • July 21: Lindsey Stirling and Mako
  • July 22: Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons
  • July 23: ABBA LA and Bee Gees Gold (tribute bands)
  • July 24: Island Empire Festival, featuring Sammy Johnson, Fiji, Anuhea, Arise Roots, Eli-Mac, Analea Brown and Lea Love
  • July 27: Counting Crows and David Rosales & His Band of Scoundrels
  • July 28: The Offspring, Agent Orange and Love Canal
  • July 29: Brett Eldredge and Nate Smith
  • July 30: CNCO and Maria Jose
  • July 31: J Boog & The Green, The Expendables and FIA
  • Aug. 3:  Three Dog Night and The Grass Roots
  • Aug. 4: Jim Gaffigan 
  • Aug. 5 & 6: Rebelution, Steel Pulse, Denm and DJ Mackle
  • Aug. 7: Tribute bands: Sweet & Tender Hooligans (The Smiths and Morrissey), Devotional (Depeche Mode) and Substance (New Order)
  • Aug. 10: The Band Perry, Lindsay Ell and The Joy Reunion
  • Aug. 11: Maxwell
  • Aug. 12: Smokey Robinson
  • Aug. 13: Tribute band: The Fab Four (The Beatles) 
  • Aug. 14: The Psychedelic Furs and X

Additional bands are scheduled for dates after the closing of the OC Fair.

Tickets range from $20-$150 and can be purchased here. 

The Hangar is an aviation-style performance and event center located in the north-central section of the fair. Most of these performances are by various tribute bands, paying homage to famous artists, unless otherwise noted. The following acts are scheduled in this venue: 

  • July 15: Don’t Look Back (Boston)
  • July 16: Led Zepplica (Led Zeppelin)
  • July 17: I Am King (Michael Jackson)
  • July 20: Dead Man’s Party (Oingo Boingo & Danny Elfman)
  • July 21: Elton – The Early Years (Elton John)
  • July 22: Wild Child (Jim Morrison & The Doors)
  • July 23: Which One’s Pink? (Pink Floyd)
  • July 24: LA Sound Machine (Gloria Estefan & Miami Sound Machine)
  • July 27: The Cured (The Cure)
  • July 28: 24K Magic (Bruno Mars) 
  • July 29: Dog N Butterfly (Heart)
  • July 30: Twisted Gypsy (Fleetwood Mac)
  • July 31: STYXology (STYX)
  • Aug. 3: Petty Or Not (Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers)
  • Aug. 4: The Long Run (The Eagles)
  • Aug. 5: No Duh (No Doubt & Gwen Stefani)
  • Aug. 6: Journey Unauthorized (Journey)
  • Aug. 7: Flashback Heart Attack (New Wave 80s Music)
  • Aug. 10 & 11: Queen Nation (Queen)
  • Aug. 12: Devotional (Depeche Mode)
  • Aug. 13: Noise Pollution (AC/DC) 
  • Aug. 14: Mariachi Sol de Mexico *is not a tribute band

Tickets are around $20 and can be purchased through the OC Fair website.

The Action Sports Arena will have its eighth annual OC Brew Hee Haw Craft Beer Roundup on July 15 and 16, featuring a performance by American rockabilly band Big Sandy and his Fly-Rite Boys. The arena will also feature the Monster Truck Nitro Tour, demolition derbies and speedway motorcycle races and freestyle stunt shows.

Carnival Games and Rides

The unlimited ride carnival wristbands are returning this year and can be purchased online. The wristband allows unlimited rides and two free games. It can only be used on Wednesdays and Thursdays, must be redeemed by 5 p.m. and the unlimited rides stop at 8 p.m.

Individual ride and game tickets are $1.25 each and can be purchased online in a bundle of 16, 40 and 80 tickets. Also, carnival tickets can be purchased on the FunPass app.

Food and Drinks

A mix of unique fair food and carnival classics will be available at the OC Fair. Some unique items are Chicken Charlies’ Kool-Aid chicken sandwich, Fried a Fair’s fried Nutella, and Papi’s Puffy Tacos’ puffy taquitos. Also, classic items such as corn dogs, funnel cake and turkey legs will be available at vendors such as Hot Dog on a Stick, Dutchmen’s Funnel Cakes and Backyard BBQ Village.

The Wine Courtyard will feature tastings of award-winning wines and seminars. Beer will be sold throughout the fair, but Baja Blues and Hussong’s Cantina are known for their bar selections and atmospheres.

On Thursdays from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., the OC Fair has $4 food tastings where guests can taste sample-sized food items from over 80 vendors. 

Every Thursday during the OC Fair there will be $4 food tastings that allow guests to try samples from over 80 vendors. Credit: Photo courtesy of OC Fair & Event Center

Other Entertainment

Returning fair attractions like the Great American Petting Farm, magician Frank Thurston, All-Alaskan Racing Pigs, Dragon Knights stilt walkers, hypnotist Mark Yuzuik and Blue Ribbon-winning competition entries will be included in this year’s fair.

The OC Fair has a tradition of hosting competitions for visual arts, home arts & hobbies, table settings, horticulture, livestock, culinary arts, wine and youth competitions. Guests were invited to submit entries into more than 20 competitions such as market livestock, fresh florals, sugar arts & confections, fine arts, photography and handcrafts. 

Nguyen said she is glad the fair is back from its 2020 hiatus so she can enjoy seeing all the shows and competition exhibits. She submitted her own knitwork to the 2019 OC Fair’s home arts & hobbies competition under the subcategory of hand-knitted clothing and won the staff choice award.

“At the time, I had been knitting for four years so I wanted to challenge myself and knit something for the fair competition,” Nguyen said.

The California Fresh Exhibit, located at the OC Promenade on the fairgrounds, celebrates the state’s diverse specialty crops by educating consumers. There will be an augmented reality treasure hunt game, crafts for kids, recipe cards and culinary demonstrations.

For more information, tickets and maps visit ocfair.com and download the OC Fair app.

Jessica Choi is an intern for Arts & Culture at Voice of OC. She can be reached at jessica2678@gmail.com.


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