A Brief History of the San Diego County Fair
In 1880, a group of San Diegans organized an agricultural Fair to bring county farmers together to share ideas, see who had the best citrus fruit, who baked the best pie, and who had the fastest horse. By the 1930s, faced with fairs that struggled each year for survival, voters approved pari-mutuel racetrack betting to help fund the state's agricultural fairs. In 1936, the 22nd District Agricultural Association bought land at the mouth of the San Dieguito River for a county fairgrounds. About the same time, the Del Mar Turf Club leased the racetrack from the 22nd DAA to operate an annual live racing meet.
And so it continues today. The 22nd DAA, an agency of the State of California, still owns and operates the Fairgrounds. Its staff organizes four major annual events, including the annual San Diego County Fair, and runs Surfside Race Place, the year-round satellite horse racing facility. The Del Mar Thoroughbred Club still leases the facilities for its live meet each summer. And hundreds of consumer and trade promoters rent the Fairgrounds facilities for home and garden shows, dog shows, antique fairs, sports shows, music festivals and much more. No tax dollars are used; the Fairgrounds is entirely self-supporting.
Click on the links below to learn more about the Fairgrounds' history. The information contained in these articles comes from several San Diego County newspapers; a 1974 book, Del Mar Decades by Elizabeth Whitfield Richards; a 1988 book, Del Mar: Looking Back by Nancy Hanks Ewing and the Fairgrounds' own archives.