O.C. Fair will return this summer in a slimmed-down version to allow social distancing

A boy wears a mask to prevent sunburn at the Orange County Fair in 2019
Jericho Rodriguez, 8, wears a mask to prevent sunburn at the annual Orange County Fair in July 2019.
(Liz Moughon / Los Angeles Times)

With COVID-19 rates falling and more people getting vaccinated, the Orange County fair will return for in-person fun this summer.

The board of directors governing the state fairgrounds voted unanimously Thursday morning to bring the beloved summer event back, with several major adjustments, after it was canceled last year.

“Our team spent the last year developing health and safety procedures,” CEO Michele Richards said in a video posted to Facebook. “So when you come to the O.C. Fair or any event at the O.C. Fair and Event Center, you can rest assured that that event will be as healthy and safe as possible.”

The number of carnival rides, food stands and shopping vendors at the fair, under the theme Time for Fun, will be reduced to provide more space for social distancing, according to a news release.

Officials will limit capacity for fairgoers and require masks at the event, which will take place from July 16 to Aug. 15 in Costa Mesa.

Fairgoers must purchase advance tickets, available online beginning May 1. Prices will be $12 for general admission and $7 for children and seniors on Wednesdays and Thursdays. On Fridays through Sundays, tickets are $14 general admission and $7 for children and seniors.


Last year’s fair was canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic — the first time since World War II that the fair was not held.

Instead, organizers hosted a virtual fair with competitions and livestock auctions.

While the flagship event did not happen in person, other events have taken place at the fairgrounds in the past year, including drive-in shows, the weekly farmers market and outdoor concerts.

“This milestone will allow the community to come together to celebrate the future and generate much-needed opportunities for economic development and growth in Orange County,” O.C. Fair Board Chair Natalie Rubalcava-Garcia said in a statement. “The board and staff have done a fantastic job of responsibly managing our finances and preparing to meet safe reopening guidelines to not just make it through the pandemic, but to emerge resilient and ready for 2021 and beyond.”