O.C. Fair sells out for first time since 1890, but there may be ways to get in on booked days

A clown juggles in front of a barn
VeeKay, a clown, entertains fairgoers Friday on opening day of the O.C. Fair in Costa Mesa.
(Kevin Chang / Times Community News)

Orange County residents hankering for a corndog and pig races will have to act fast, as O.C. Fair organizers say the regional festival sold out on opening weekend for the first time in more than a century.

Demand for tickets on Saturday and Sunday exceeded 45,000 single-day capacity limits imposed by organizers. And since tickets must be purchased online in advance, anyone who may have waited until arriving to book slots would have been turned away at the gates.

The monthlong event opened Friday and runs Wednesday through Sunday each week through Aug. 15.


Child stands in front of fair display
A young fairgoer poses with mascots Olivia the Orange and Strawberry Jan on the O.C. Fair’s opening day.
(Kevin Chang / Times Community News )

While exact figures were not available Monday, OC Fair & Event Center spokeswoman Terry Moore reported first-weekend attendance was “absolutely phenomenal,” as fairgoers poured into to the Costa Mesa venue for the first time in nearly two years after organizers were forced to cancel 2020 festivities amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“Fairgoers, staff, entertainers and partners were all thrilled to bring back the summer fun of the O.C. Fair,” Moore said by email. “There were smiles all over the fairgrounds as guests found their favorite foods, hopped on carnival rides, visited farm animals and rediscovered the joy they had been missing.”

Organizers are urging residents to book tickets for upcoming dates in advance. If hearts are set on a day that’s already sold out, one option is to purchase tickets for concerts going on that day at the Pacific Amphitheatre or the Hangar, which include same-day admission to the fair.

Another, rarer option exists for those who purchased Super Pass tickets for the 2020 O.C. Fair before it was canceled. While refunds were offered, those who chose to keep their passes may attend this year without booking online, organizers say.

Last year’s cancellation is not completely unprecedented in fair history, which goes back to 1890. Organizers were forced to pause festivities from 1942 through 1947 during World War II under a federal mandate. But foregoing the fun in 2020 was difficult for many locals who attend every year.

“It was disappointing but not surprising,” Costa Mesan Donna Yelich said of last year’s closure on opening day Friday. “We didn’t want people getting sick. [But] I would have been disappointed if we didn’t have the fair this year. One year, I can handle, but not two.”


General admission is $12 on Wednesday and Thursday and $14 Friday through Sunday. Admission for seniors over 60 and youth ages 6 to 12 costs $7 daily, while children 5 and younger are free. General parking costs $10.

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Cardine writes for Times Community News.