Fair board commends Homegrown Fun success

Swifty Swine Racing Pigs
Swifty Swine Racing Pigs were a center stage attraction at this year’s HomeGrownFun, a scaled-down version of the San Diego County Fair. Included in this race were Nancy Piglosi, Hamala Harris, Donald Trumproast and Dr. Fauci.
(Nancee E. Lewis/The San Diego Union-Tribune)

About 272,000 people attended Homegrown Fun, a scaled-down version of the San Diego County Fair that concluded on the Fourth of July with a fireworks display and other patriotic-themed activities.

“It really was a pleasure to be able to get back into what we do best, and that’s producing events,” Katie Mueller, chief business services officer at the 22nd District Agricultural Association, said during a July 13 meeting of the board of directors that oversees the fairgrounds.

There were nearly 8,000 guests who attended opening day of Homegrown Fun on June 11, according to the fairgrounds, and a little more than 29,000 who were there for the finale. Average attendance was about 15,000 per day, more than the 13,000 per day that fairgrounds staff had projected before the month-long event began.

Homegrown Fun generated approximately $1.44 million of gross revenue in admission, $1.86 million in rides and nearly $633,000 in parking.

Fair board member Frederick Schenk said that as recently as four months ago, he would have said “there is no way we will be predicting those kinds of numbers.”

“We had the shortest amount of time in which to get ready,” he said.

After the 2020 San Diego County Fair was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, board members and fairgrounds staff faced an uncertain future. All other large events that generate most of the revenue at the fairgrounds were canceled as well, leaving the state-owned venue in a precarious financial position.

Entertainment at Homegrown Fun included a carousel, ferris wheel, the usual fair food favorites, shopping, pony rides, musicians and other county fair staples. Other attractions included the Swifty Swine Pig Races, athletic performances by Extreme Dogs, Homegrown Fun on the Farm to educate audiences about wildlife, and Agri-Land, which provided a tutorial of California crops.

“Just seeing that return to that sense of normalcy, just seeing people out again, seeing them enjoy themselves, there were so many breathtaking and chilling moments throughout it just realizing what we had accomplished in such a short period of time,” said Carlene Moore, CEO of the Del Mar Fairgrounds.

Moore added that there will be a “fuller wrap-up” of Homegrown Fun at the next board meeting.

“All of the challenges that we had throughout COVID,” said Richard Valdez, president of the board, “and our inability to hold events was really a gut punch to the organization, so to be able to come together and celebrate, even if it is a paired-down version of the fair, is tremendous.”

“Imagine what we can do with a year of planning,” Moore said.