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Possible increases to OC Fair admission and parking prices are on the table for 2020

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Orange County Fair visitors get their thrills on rides during the fair’s 2019 run in Costa Mesa.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

You may have to shell out a little more cash if you want to eat deep-fried Oreos and mingle with llamas at the Orange County Fair next year.

Though the Fair Board on Thursday approved the operating budget for 2020, it plans to revisit at its next meeting Jan. 16 various scenarios for increasing admission and parking prices that it was presented with Thursday.

The board last month wanted to look for ways to cut expenses and generate more revenue to cover an increase in the minimum wage over the next few years.

This past summer, the Costa Mesa fair’s general admission was $12 on weekdays and $14 on weekends.

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Michele Richards, who was officially named chief executive of the OC Fair & Event Center on Thursday after having served as interim CEO since Oct. 28, presented three options for admission price increases.

The first option would increase weekday admission to $14, resulting in a projected $396,308 in revenue. The second would increase weekday and weekend admission by a dollar, to $13 and $15, respectively, for revenue of $432,626. The third option would increase weekend admission to $15 for revenue of $226,863.

Richards pointed out that many promotions and discounts are available for senior citizens, children and military personnel.

“We often say there is not a single day that a customer can’t come to the fair at a substantial discount or for free,” she said. “What we are suggesting through these scenarios are increases to that full gate admission price. These are for people that are not necessarily price-sensitive that come to the fair maybe even on the spur of the moment and are actively willing to pay that full price.”

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Another option under consideration is increasing the year-round parking price, currently $9, to $10 for an estimated $187,000 in revenue.

Richards said the fairgrounds will continue to develop more possibilities throughout the year that wouldn’t cost fair-goers more money. She presented one option during the meeting of increasing merchant space rates by 10% for a projected $63,507 in revenue.

The San Diego County Fair this year priced general admission at $20 and single-day parking at $18. The Los Angeles County Fair priced admission at $15.50 on weekdays and $21.50 on weekends and holidays, with general parking at $15.

The Orange County Fair Board’s next meeting will be at 5:30 p.m. at the OC Fair & Event Center’s administrative building at 88 Fair Drive.

Richards’ selection as CEO came during a closed board session Thursday, with members Barbara Bagneris and Newton Pham absent.

On Oct. 15, the Central Washington State Fair announced that then-O.C. fairgrounds CEO Kathy Kramer would become its new president and CEO effective Feb. 1. Two weeks later, the O.C. Fair Board announced that Kramer was fired and appointed Richards, the Fair & Event Center’s vice president of business development, as the interim CEO.

Kramer, in turn, alleged she had been retaliated against for participating in an investigation into allegations of misconduct by two former board members.

“We want to express that we are committed, and Michele is committed, to the board and operating in a different way, a way that is more transparent and involves greater communication,” Vice Chairman Andreas Meyer said Thursday.

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“I believe that what we do here is special and important, and I am honored to be entrusted to serve this amazing organization,” Richards said in a statement.

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Updates:
6:50 PM, Dec. 12, 2019: This article was originally published at 6:25 p.m. and has been updated with additional information.

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