Editor's note: Orange County Fair Chief Executive Steve Beazley has agreed to write weekly updates on the 2011 O.C. Fair. His columns will appear Tuesdays in the Daily Pilot for the duration of the fair.
And on the fifth day, the Orange County Fair rested. Two days off before the fair resumes Wednesday allows the opportunity to reflect on a historic opening to the 2011 O.C. Fair.
It began Thursday night, when the fair presented the first "A Fair to Remember: A Celebration of Our Children. The fair hosted more than 8,200 foster children and their foster families in an evening of pure fun. The kids and families enjoyed unlimited free food, rides, games and exhibits. This community outreach evening ended with each child and family member being given a ticket to return to the fair anytime. I wish I could share with you the letters of thanks pouring in from foster parents whose children now have lifelong memories of the fair.
That, my friends, is purpose in full swing.
Thursday evening, our box office notified us that pre-sale Super Passes outsold 2010 by 40%. More than 11,000 folks had their Super Pass in hand and were at the starting line ready to race to the fair.
Friday morning, the first hour of free parking and free admission drew more than 32,000 fairgoers, compared with 24,000 in 2010. I guess the word is out on the free hour. Friday's total attendance of more than 70,000 was the biggest opening day in fair history.
Bob Dylan drew almost 10,000 concertgoers Friday evening and kicked off the fair in classic fashion. When an American master opens your fair, something special is bound to happen.
Oh yeah, nestled between Thursday night's afterglow and Friday's opening day festivities, was the announcement by Department of General Services that the sale was officially off. Our employees quickly smiled then resumed servicing our fairgoers, now with a double smile.
That, my friends, is dedication.
Saturday's attendance finished a few thousand behind the highest first Saturday attendance in fair history. The day featured a first-time offering. Discounts are typically reserved for weekdays to drive fair visits to lower attended hours. This year we broke the mold by introducing the Rise and Shine promotion where everyone arriving at the fair between 10 and 11 a.m. pays $2.
Translated, a family of four normally would pay $34 for admission, but pays $8 if they Rise and Shine. The fair does not weather a bad economy, we service it. The offer was repeated Sunday. For 2010, attendance in the first hour of Saturday and Sunday was 10,450. In 2011, it was more than 24,000. We will make the Rise and Shine $2 offer every weekend during the fair. Y'all come.
In all, opening weekend drew the largest first weekend attendance in fair history. Ring the bells, the celebration has begun in grand fashion!
So, a moment to catch a fair breath and off we go into the first full week of fair. So much to do, but worth highlighting is the fact that more than 25,000 kids (and their parents, including dads with their earphone radio to listen to the Angels game) have their tickets and will be descending on the Pacific Amphitheatre to see two huge teen idols, Big Time Rush on Friday and Selena Gomez on Sunday. These two concerts, still days away, are the highest selling concerts in fair history, which proves once and for all that while adults are welcome at the fair, it is all about kids, who will be out in force this weekend.
Let's start this week's giving with the We Care Wednesday Food Drive where bringing five cans of food will get everyone in for free until 4 p.m. What better way to celebrate the fair's theme than to say "Let's all Eat!"
Staying on theme, "Let's Eat!" salutes the fact that eating surrounds our most hallowed holidays, celebrations and traditional gatherings whether it be a Fourth of July picnic, a Thanksgiving feast or Christmas dinner. This year's fair seems to be following those traditions because it sure is beginning to look a lot like Christmas in July here at the fair.
Come on out with your kids, your sibs and your bibs and we will see you at the fair.
STEVE BEAZLEY is president and chief executive of the OC Fair & Event Center in Costa Mesa.