The 1920s were absolutely roaring at Fairplex – the inaugural L.A. County Fair debuted with 100,000 in attendance and C.B. Afflerbaugh was named first paid manager.
A merchants exposition held along the Southern Pacific Railway in downtown Pomona set the stage for things to come. Presented by Harry LaBreque, a promoter of community celebrations for Foley & Burke Shows, a railroad carnival, and Clinton B. “Jack” Afflerbaugh, a Pomona druggist and city councilman, the show consisted of exhibits in a tent and a carnival. The success of the show spurred Afflerbaugh and other local businessmen to look toward bigger things. At the time, Los Angeles County did not have a county fair, and the businessmen saw this as an opportunity to bring recognition to the city of Pomona. Lloyd Hamilton, a reporter for the Pomona Bulletin, overheard two Lions Club members discussing the idea and put it into print. One of those men, L.E. Sheets, a local music store owner who had been involved with fairs in Iowa, was then asked to present his plans to the Pomona Chamber of Commerce, which then took the idea of a fair to the city council.
Although half a dozen attempts to bring a fair to L.A. County had failed, the board set out to start the first L.A. County Fair. A fair board was formed, and Sheets was named president. Afflerbaugh was first vice president and Charles P. Curran second vice president. Other officers included treasurer Fred Reynolds and directors Fred E. Whyte and W.A. Kennedy.
The city of Pomona agreed to purchase a 43-acre beet and barley field from the Ricardo Vejar estate for use as a fairground. Research revealed that the name "L.A. County Fair" was not registered. Afflerbaugh contacted Sacramento and the name was adopted at once. The fair was incorporated as the Los Angeles County Fair Association and Sheets served as its first president. According to its charter, it was organized "primarily for the promotion of the agricultural, horticultural and animal husbandry interests of the great Southwest."
Financing started with the sale of $28,000 in stock to local businessmen, but only $23,000 was realized because some of the pledges were not met. The sum was not sufficient for the necessary work, so an additional $15,000 was gathered from personal loans to committee members from local banks. Reluctantly, the County Board of Supervisors appropriated $10,000 to the Fair.
Ground was broken and access roads were built. A half-mile racetrack and a grandstand seating 4,000 were constructed. Two cattle barns, two livestock buildings, a livestock barn and an administration building were also built. Circus tents were purchased to house the agricultural and horticultural displays. A wooden fence surrounded most of the grounds.
The inaugural L.A. County Fair opened Oct. 17, 1922, and ran for five days through Oct. 21. The hotels of Pomona were packed as 49,461 people visited the Fair, which cost promoters $63,000 to present. All obligations were paid and personal notes were redeemed. Harness racing, chariot races and an airplane wing-walking exhibit were major highlights that year.
Following the success and public acceptance of the first Fair, a $75,000 bond issue was approved for the construction of permanent buildings and a grandstand for horse racing. An additional 62 acres were purchased and deeded to the county.
Afflerbaugh became the Fair's first paid manager, a post he held until 1960, when he died at the age of 72. Construction was completed on a building for women's activities (home arts), fine arts shared the exhibit hall. Attendance rose to 93,163.
Fair attendance topped the 100,000 mark for the first time (102,991). It also marked the first time the Fair was held in September instead of October.
The current administration building was designed by Pomona resident Peter Ficker and built at a cost of $10,000. The building served as the entrance to the Fair.
The Fair gained international popularity and was mentioned in newspapers in Sweden, France, England, Mexico and in South America. The event was expanded to six days and drew 145,062 people.
The Fair crowned its first queen. There was no formality in the selection of Edna Mae Paige, since the idea of a queen was designed for publicity purposes.
"The largest exhibit building in the world" was completed at a cost of $250,000. It measured 800' by 135’, had a stage at one end and seating for 16,000 people, and was known as the "Palace of Agriculture." Attendance reached 265,213.
The Fair was held in combination with the Southern California Fair, held for many years at Riverside. The Depression touched Pomona as it did the nation, and attendance dropped to 233,350.
The Fair was presented as a tri-county fair, as the Orange County Fair joined Riverside County at the L.A. County Fair. The event remained a tri-county harvest festival through 1937. The fairgrounds, owned by the city of Pomona, and the buildings, owned by the Fair Association, were deeded to the County of Los Angeles. A new $204,000 concrete and steel grandstand was built. The structure was combined with an exhibit hall, which housed the household arts exhibit in 12,000 square feet of space. The grandstand and exhibit hall combined to seat 12,500 people. California Governor James Rolph Jr. officially dedicated the grandstand on Sept. 17. Later, the governor outran a team of six horses, which came roaring around the corner in the barn area. Today the grandstand is known as Fairplex Park and the hall houses The Village on Broadway and Tapestry exhibit. New horse and cattle barns were also added. Fair offices located in the community building on South Garey Avenue were moved to the Progress Bulletin building on Third Street in Pomona.
Pari-mutuel wagering was legalized in California, and the Fair meeting became the first in Southern California to allow fans to bet on horse racing. Attendance leapt to 334,759 that year. Cowboy actor Monty Montana wed Louise Archer in front of the racetrack grandstand. Famous cowboy screen star Buck Jones was the best man. Montana rode to the altar aboard his trusted pinto, Comanche Spot, and Archer on Lady Spot.
Following a big year in 1933, the Fair was extended to 16 days. The event grew to 17 days in 1935 and continued that way every year through 1980, except 1939, when it was extended to 24 days because of rain.
A lagoon was constructed near the administration building, as were three new horse barns in the livestock. The grandstand added dressing rooms, a stage and a sunken bandstand. The Fair inaugurated its wine competition, which is today the longest-running county fair competition and one of the most prestigious in the nation.
A new arts and crafts building opened behind the administration building. The building was later used as a warehouse and is the current Administration II building.
The government’s Works Progress Administration, replacing tents used in previous years, aided construction of various buildings. The fine arts building, a new administration building, two buildings measuring 350’ x 100’ (Fairplex 5 & 6), a cafeteria (Anthony’s at the Fair-renamed Avalon in 2004) and several smaller structures were constructed. The livestock barns were destroyed by fire that year, but they were immediately rebuilt.
Two more 350’ x 100’ buildings (Fairplex 7 & 8) were finished for rabbits and poultry and for youth exhibits. Among the visitors to the Fair was screen star Shirley Temple.
A childcare center and a home arts building were constructed. Sculptor Lawrence Tenny Stevens won a $2,500 contest to create a sculpture in front of the fine arts building. The stone monument is a salute to the young farmers of the nation. The Citrus Empire Model Railroad Club debuted its train exhibit. The Fair was extended to 24 days because of rain, but returned to 17 days the following year.
The Los Angeles County Fair Corporation was reorganized as the Los Angeles County Fair Association. The agreement between the corporation, city of Pomona and County of Los Angeles was made at the suggestion of the federal Works Progress Administration so that there would be no question regarding the Fair’s operating on a strictly not-for-profit basis. The county Board of Supervisors turned over operation to the Fair Association and assigned a member to the Association. All excess revenues were established to go toward maintenance and new development.
The Association transferred 46 acres of land and buildings to the County of Los Angeles. On Oct. 3, only three days after the close of the Fair, the huge agricultural building was gutted by fire. On Dec. 14, just a week after Pearl Harbor, three U.S. Army regiments occupied the grounds as first units arriving for war duty.
World War II brought a halt to the Fair for six years and the grounds played an important part in the war effort as they were taken over by the U.S. Army. The grounds were converted into a motor base in January, and headquarters were established in the home arts building. A community of 5,428 Japanese-Americans was housed in 420 pre-fabricated temporary buildings from May 5-Aug. 24 before being relocated to other parts of the country. Pomona Ordnance Motor base was established in August. Forty acres was sold to the U.S. government.
The army used the grounds as a desert training center.
The Ordnance Command shop was established on the grounds.
The grounds were used as a German and Italian prisoner of war camp.
The prisoner of war camp was closed in March.
Thirty-five acres were annexed for the establishment of a trailer park on the grounds.
The Fair Association and County of Los Angeles signed a 49-year lease on June 8 for the Association’s long-term use of the land and buildings. The association deeded 72 acres to the county as part of the agreement. Thummer the Pig was introduced as the Fair's official mascot. The Fair reopened after the war with a $2 million construction and reconditioning program. The $750,000 reconstructed agricultural pavilion (today known as Fairplex 4), designed by Peter Ficker, replaced the burned structure. Measuring 800’ x 149’, it was the largest structure of its kind west of the Mississippi. Other new construction projects included a horse racing tote board, a tunnel under the track to the infield and new cattle and swine barns. Attendance topped the one million mark for the first time with 1,254,503 visitors, making the event the second largest fair in the United States, surpassed only by the Texas State Fair. Proving to be the start of a trend, L.A. County Fair attendance has topped the one million plateau in all but one year since 1948.
A new county highway known as Ganesha Boulevard was constructed through what was then known as the San Jose Hills. The six-lane road ran from the grounds to the east slope of Kellogg Hill. It is now known as Fairplex Drive and links Fairplex to the San Bernardino Freeway. The Fair Association purchased 62 acres for parking lots, extending the total property to more than 400 acres, including 225 acres for parking. More than 8,200 square feet of space was added to the administration building, including a board of directors room with an outdoor balcony.
The carnival was moved to its present location to make room for the new sports plaza. A 40-foot-high arch stretching 100 feet from side to side and colorfully lit with neon letters formed the entrance to the fun zone. A casting pool 125 feet in diameter was added in the sports plaza. A new main entrance measuring 233 feet across was established near the main parking lot.
The world’s largest man-made ski jump using artificial snow was featured at the Fair. The take-off area rose 225 feet high and sloped downward for 500 feet.
The ornate flower and garden building was constructed. The carnival was included as a permanent part of the operation, rather than on a yearly contract basis. The landmark Clock Tower was built. The Fair’s Mexican Village was constructed and is now known as Plaza de las Américas.
On April 11-12, the National Hot Rod Association held its first sanctioned event, the Southern California Championship Drag Races, at Pomona Raceway, located at a far corner of the grounds. Over the weekend, 375 cars ran 850 timed runs. A note from LA County Board of Supervisors stipulated that the annual total money value of the aforesaid consideration shall be at least equivalent to the money amount of taxes on land and improvements which would accrue to Lessor’s General Fun if the 421-acre Leasor-owned property were up on tax rolls.
A fire station and first aid building was constructed, along with a new 100’ x 200’ building (Fairplex 8A) for the home builders’ new products show...A giant "ranchero" carving was completed by artist John Svenson, leading to the eventual development of the Fair's Court of the Redwoods. The redwood forest was completed in 1961.
A Fair exhibitor, Fred Morrison, sold flying disks at the 1955 Fair. Two college friends, Richard Knerr and Arthur Melin, were impressed by the item and negotiated the rights to manufacturing it for their small mail-order company, Wham-O. The Pluto Platter was introduced in 1957 and was renamed the Frisbee.
Millard Sheets, world-renowned artist and director of the Fair’s fine arts exhibit for 25 years, resigns. For the first time at any fair, the Ringling Bros., Barnum and Bailey Circus appeared at the 1957 L.A. County Fair.
A tunnel connecting the grounds with the 10,000-car parking lot opposite White Avenue was completed under White Avenue. The tunnel measures 400 feet in length.
Philip D. Shepherd took over as general manager, following the death of Afflerbaugh. Shepherd was the son of B. Chaffey Shepherd, who had served on the board of directors during the Fair's formative years. The Fair again presented a ski jump performance on a man-made jump covered with artificial snow.
The National Hot Rod Association held its inaugural Winternationals at Pomona Raceway in February before the largest single-day audience in the brief history of drag racing.
A mile-long monorail circling the core of the grounds began operation with 14 24-seat electronically operated passenger cars. Storybook Farm, now known as California’s Heritage Square, was added.
A connecting clubhouse section was added to the racetrack grandstand, providing indoor dining and outdoor terraced seating. The Sports Plaza Marina opened with water skiing demonstrations.
The Golden Empire Mine, a replica of the original Empire Gold Mine in Grass Valley, Calif., which operated from 1850-1956, opened and quickly became a popular Fair attraction. The mine closed in 1997.
California Governor Pat Brown and Republican gubernatorial candidate Ronald Reagan both visited the 1966 Fair.
Phil Shepherd retired as general manager and was succeeded by Ralph M. Hinds.
The one-of-a-kind Child Development Center opened its doors in 1980. It is regarded as one of the top facilities of its kind in the state of California.
An extra day was added to the Fair as it opened on a Thursday and hosted 18 days. Admission was free on opening day, and a weekday record of 104,890 attended the Fair. A landmark 115-foot-tall Ferris wheel was dismantled to make way for renovations in the carnival area. All permanent carnival structures, including the arching landmark Fun Zone sign, were replaced by a new carnival.
Ralph Hinds was appointed president and chief executive officer.
Fairplex 4 was reopened after a major renovation to bring additional year-round business to the grounds. The $4 million development project brought increased trade and consumer show use to 105,500 square feet of indoor exhibit space. The name of the fairgrounds was changed to Fairplex to encourage year-round use as a show and exposition complex, and the building was renamed Fairplex 4. The subsequent success of this facility as a home for various events prompted the Fair Association to promote greater utilization of this and other facilities and to begin a renovation program designed to meet the needs of trade and consumer shows on a year-round basis. Pomona Raceway hosted the NHRA Winston Select Finals for the first time.
Racing experienced an enormous boost, not only with attendance and handle numbers, but on the track, where the old half-mile bullring was expanded to five-eighths of a mile. A single-day record attendance of 177,612 people visited the Fair on Sept. 21.
The racetrack grandstand and clubhouse facilities were renovated and the track was renamed Fairplex Park. Lighting was added at the track as night harness racing made its seasonal debut in Pomona. The Fair's landmark food circle of restaurants was renovated and converted into a modern Food Fair, now known as Sunset Cabana. In addition, a 184-space recreational vehicle park and convenience store opened on the grounds across White Avenue.
After two years, harness racing was discontinued.
The Los Angeles County Fair Association and the County of Los Angeles signed a 56-year (plus two five-year options) agreement for the Fair Association's continued use of the grounds.
A $27 million bond issue marked a year of major development at Fairplex. Four exhibition buildings, covering 134,400 square feet of indoor exhibit space, were renovated in buildings 5, 6, 7 and 8. The entire exhibition complex was re-landscaped with plazas, fountains, trees and flowers, and the tunnel under White Avenue was re-designed. The hill behind the flower and garden building was renovated with new roads and exhibit space...Nine new horse barns were completed and construction began on a horse auction pavilion. To make room for the barns, the historical trains were moved from the barn area to their present location adjacent to the Golden Empire Mine.
Barretts Equine Sales Ltd. opened with its first thoroughbred sale. The sales pavilion was named Hinds Pavilion, honoring Fair Association president and CEO Ralph Hinds. Ten new 40-seat monorail cars and a boarding station were added as the monorail system was renovated. The Fair was expanded from 18 to 24 days, and horse racing was extended from 18 to 19 days.
The Fairplex Child Development Center merged with the University of La Verne childcare program and the facility underwent more than $1 million in renovations following a grant from the County of Los Angeles. An additional 8,000 square feet of space and increased staff and enrollment resulted. Ground was broken in April for the on-grounds Sheraton Suites Fairplex hotel. Fair attendance hit an all-time single-season record of 1,612,097 visitors.
The 247-suite Sheraton Suites Fairplex hotel opened in June.
The National Hot Rod Association completed $4.5 million in improvements to the dragstrip. The L.A. County Fair added a landmark sky ride.
The fine arts’ building was dedicated as the "Millard Sheets Gallery." The food fair was converted into the Super Diner. Ralph Hinds died on July 30.
Shortly after the 1995 Fair and 15 months after Hinds' death, the Fair Association appointed James E. Henwood president and chief executive officer.
A 90-foot-high Fairplex electronic sign was erected along the San Bernardino Freeway. Nightly grandstand entertainment returned to the Fair for the first time since 1983. The landmark monorail ride and station were torn down and removed. Mexican Village was renovated and renamed Fiesta Village (in 2001 became Plaza de las Américas).
The Fair celebrated its 75th anniversary with a 75-cent opening day admission price, attracting more than 90,000 people. Special days recognizing local communities and their heroes were introduced during the Fair. “UFO Encounters,” an attraction focusing on the public’s interest in aliens and UFOs, made its world premiere.
The NHRA Motorsports Museum opened in what was formerly used as the home arts building. The Fairplex Recreational Vehicle Park changed operation to a KOA campground affiliate.
Fairguests were treated to a “WOW” exhibit housed in Fairplex 7A. “DinoQuest: Search for the Lost Expedition” filled all 43,000-square-feet of Fairplex 7A. Jockey J.C. Gonzalez was killed during an accident at Fairplex Park on opening day of the Fair. Fairplex established three 501(c) (3) non-profit organizations: The Fairplex Child Development Center, The Millard Sheets Gallery and the Fairplex Education Foundation. The Foundations’ goal is to raise funds through grants and charitable donations to further enhance the existing educational opportunities and expand the programs to a year-round basis.
Red Gate and Yellow Gate were reconfigured for one new entrance at Yellow Gate; new signage was introduced; The “WOW” exhibit in Fairplex 7A was “Expedition Earth”; horse racing received a new paddock; Thunder Alley was added on Redwood Street; grandstand entertainment appeared Fridays through Sundays throughout the Fair. The Republican presidential candidate, George W. Bush, cut the opening day ribbon.
The Fair closed for the first time since World War II when on Sept. 11 terrorists attacked the United States. It reopened on Sept. 12. On Sept. 14, Fair attendees were asked to donate $1 in lieu of regular Fair admission; through the generosity of Fairguests that day $250,000 was donated to the Red Cross Disaster Fund for the victims and families of the tragedy. Court of the Redwoods was renovated and the Ranchero carving was relocated near the Millard Sheets Gallery. Plaza de las Américas (formerly Fiesta Village) underwent a name change and a new look. The livestock area became FairView Farms to combine animals and agriculture.
The Los Angeles County Fair Association signed an agreement with Magna Communications to hold the L.A. County Fair horseracing meet at Santa Anita Park. The California Horse Racing Board denied the application by a vote of 4-1. The board felt that the L.A. County Fair racing meet was of value and unique to the industry. Fairplex Equine Sales, LLC finalized an agreement to purchase the general partner interest in Barretts Equine Ltd. from Barrette Equine Sales, owned by Fred N. Sahadi. The Fair Association was previously a minority owner and limited partner in the enterprise. The Flower & Garden Pavilion, Clock Tower and Plaza de las Américas all celebrated 50th anniversaries. James R. Kostoff, chairman of the board of the Los Angeles County Fair Association since 1983, retired and assumed the title of director emeritus. Stephen C. Morgan became the chairman of the board. The Williams fire raged in the nearby Glendora foothills during the Fair from Sept. 22-Oct. 1 consuming 37,240 acres. The 210-freeway extension opened late in November 2002 providing another easily accessible route to Fairplex. The Fair was a 17-day event, opening on a Friday.
The U.S. invaded Iraq Thursday, March 20, 2003. The CDC expanded to add another classroom and accommodate 175 children. The NHRA Motorsports Museum was renamed Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum in honor of founder Parks on his 90th birthday in February. The Super Diner assumed the name Sunset Cabana and Barn 9A became the Big Red Barn. The Millard Sheets Gallery recreated a vignette from the 1954 House Beautiful exhibit in the gallery. The historic Clocktower was restored to the color red it sported from 1952 to the early ‘80s. Fairplex 8A was demolished in 2003 making room for a trade and convention center. As a result of title research conducted in 2003, parcels of L.A. County Fair land total 543 acres (previously listed 487). Five single day attendance records were broken during the 2003 L.A. County Fair. There were nine daily records in horse racing handle and a record-handle overall.
Vision and diversity were manifested with the creation of Cornucopia Foods LLC, a new business formed by the corporation to manage the Fairplex year-round food and beverage operation effective on April 1, 2004. In conjunction with the new company, Anthony’s at the Fair was renamed Avalon and underwent menu changes to complement the new name and renovations to the facility. The Citrus Empire Model Railroad took its exhibit off-site in 2004. The exhibit had been located on the ground floor of the grandstand since 1949. Longtime Fair exhibition, A Tapestry of Tradition, found a new home on the ground floor of the grandstand (now called The Village on Broadway), Education Expo and America’s Kids both moved to Fairplex 7A; the annual Fair feature attraction moved to Fairplex 22. White Avenue underwent major renovations, a joint beautification effort with Fairplex and the city of Pomona. Junior Fair Board was established along with scholarships for the members.
The Fair became an 18-day event for the first time since 2000. New programming included closing on Mondays and Tuesdays with a fourth weekend added. With the additional weekend fifteen nights of grandstand entertainment were featured. Horse racing dates were Sept. 9-26, with Tuesdays dark and closing day on Monday. Traditionally Mondays and Tuesdays are the lowest attendance days and weekends are still the first-choice for attending events. The Village on Broadway became the home of Tapestry, Culinary Styles and the ConAgra Foods Gourmet Kitchen. The County of Los Angeles upgraded and renovated the storm drains throughout the Fairplex grounds. The Millard Sheets Gallery received a front entry that was compliant with ADA requirements and the landmark Clock Tower was removed. A temporary structure took its place, and the Fair’s meeting place tradition continued.
The Fair repeats its 18-day format, closed Mondays and Tuesdays. In place of a feature attraction, Winter Wonderland was devised for Fairplex 8. To have buildings numerically sequential, Fairplex 7A became Fairplex 9 and Fairplex 22 was renamed Fairplex 10. Fairplex 8 underwent extensive renovation prior to the Fair; eight luxury suites constructed on the eastside bleachers at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona anticipate completion prior to the 2006 November World Finals. The seven founding fathers of the Fair were inducted into the LACFA Hall of Fame at the annual meeting in April 2006.
New vision and mission statements were adopted by the Association (see page 7). The long-standing Wines of the World competition became The Los Angeles International Wine & Spirits Competition to better reflect its full breadth and increase its value to wine consumers and the public. The Millard Sheets Gallery, renamed in 1994, underwent another change to reflect Fairtime and year-round educational programming and goals, and is now known as Millard Sheets Center for the Arts at Fairplex. Plans for the Trade and Conference Center move forward. A strategic plan was adopted to guide Fairplex’s future development. An 18-day Fair, closed Mondays and Tuesdays, will continue. The LACFA Hall of Fame welcomed Fred Freehling, Clyde Houston and Robert Lewis. Wally Parks, founder of the National Hot Rod Association passed away Sept. 28, 2007.
Groundbreaking for the Trade and Conference Center is anticipated and completion slated by the 2009 Fair. This highly anticipated project will allow Fairplex to expand its year-round business with additional space for conferences, seminars and social functions. The Child Development Center began expansion to provide space for 24 more youngsters and two new classrooms. Fairplex officials continue to explore the creation of a world-class thoroughbred training facility. The LACFA Hall of Fame welcomed Sarah Ludwick, Wally Parks and Millard Sheets, bringing the total number of inductees to 21. The 18-day Fair with Mondays and Tuesdays closed proves popular and continues in 2008.
The Fair expanded its programming opening Labor Day weekend and adding five days, continuing with Mondays and Tuesdays closed. Horse racing became a 15-day meeting closed the first two Mondays and Tuesdays. Stakes races were reduced to 15 with two new stakes added. A second sky ride (the original was added in 1993) joined the equation with one ride getting a new route transporting visitors from the Clock Tower to La Grande Wheel in the carnival and the second from Sunset Cabana to Fairplex 9. Hinds Pavilion at Barretts underwent renovation in early 2009 and emerged in early May as Finish Line Sports Grill, a sports themed bar & grill and satellite wagering destination. The Clock Tower restrooms and bank were dismantled. Trams inside the grounds were discontinued, parking lot trams continued. A difficult 2008 economy continued into 2009.
Myriad changes took place in a very busy 2010. The LACFA moved forward with groundbreaking for the long-anticipated conference center in February 2010, with completion anticipated mid-2011; a new footprint was adapted for the 2010 L.A. County Fair that included moving Yellow Gate closer to the grounds, opening the Red Gate entrance and relocating the midway; the grandstand pavilion was removed and all shopping areas were re-located to the shopping area buildings and nearby grounds locations; a shopping shuttle will transport guests from Yellow Gate to the shopping areas near Red Gate entrance. The Fair again opened Labor Day weekend with a 23-day event, closing subsequent Mondays and Tuesdays. Horse racing hosted 15 days. The circle of restaurants most currently named Sunset Cabana and the warehouses located near the lagoon were eliminated. Onsite parking for year-round events now occupies the newly vacated spaces. A challenging national economy continues.
The Sheraton Fairplex Hotel & Conference Center construction was delayed by heavy rainfall throughout the spring; opening of the center is now slated for early 2012. Palm trees were relocated from Fairplex Park to Magnolia and Juniper to create a pleasing thoroughfare for Fairguests. The Learning Centers at Fairplex moved into the First Aid building on Birch. Zoom In, the newest Fairplex business unit was created and staff will take digital photos of guests at year-round events and during the Fair available for purchase. The horse racing meet became a 13-day event with 12 stakes races. The economy continues to challenge.
The Sheraton Fairplex Conference Center hosted its first event in January and celebrated its grand opening in March. The 2012 L.A. County Fair is celebrating its 90th anniversary and will open August 31, the earliest date in its history. Horse racing continued with a 13-day meeting and a twilight racing program Wednesdays which debuted in 2011.
The L.A. County Fair had its fifth highest attendance and earliest opening day; 150,000, a record breaking number of youngsters attended FairKids Field Trip program. Fairplex was the site of Rob Zombie’s Great American Nightmare in October along with the third year of Oktoberfest.
The Los Angeles County Fair changed a lot─format was 23 days (closed Tuesday & Wednesday following Labor Day), the brand changed, horse racing was held off-site, there were no dollar days opening Labor Day weekend and many days the Fair remained open until 1 a.m. Two barns and the horse show ring were removed to accommodate the expansion of The Farm by three acres (which officially became The Farm at Fairplex) and included The Farm Kitchen. America’s Kids relocated to Expo Hall 5 with Beneath the Sea and Grinding Gears Nightclub filled Expo Hall 10, opening nightly 6 p.m. to closing with iFlip, a deejay, live band and dancing for all ages; Luminasia, a hand crafted Chinese Lantern exhibition was the feature attraction on the hillside behind the F&G Pavilion; Mojo’s Wild & Crazy Lagoon filled the area of the lagoon; the infield was reconfigured to accommodate a walk way to The Farm called The Farm Road which housed the Budweiser Clydesdales, World of Wonders, a Zip line, and food booths. Tapestry and Culinary Styles became DIY Design Studio and demonstrations were part of the programming; the Millard Sheets Art Center also housed art programs of The Learning Centers. There was a band nightly at Longboard Bar & Lounge prior to and following the concerts; and there was grandstand entertainment each night of the Fair.
The Fair ran for 19 days, 15 nights of grandstand entertainment. Popnology was the feature attraction; Luminasia returned for the second and final year. The Farm Road continued to evolve with programming and activities without horse racing and auto events on the track discontinued. HARD Summer Music Festival debuted Aug. 1-2 and returned in October for a two-day event. The 2015 LA County Fair had the largest single-day attendance since 2007 and the highest grossing EOSCS in its history. The concert stage and surrounding set up changed dramatically since there was no horse racing onsite.
James Henwood, president & CEO of the LACFA since 1995 retired in March 2016. Michael Ortiz, LACFA chairman of the board continues in that role while serving as interim president and CEO (permissible by the LACFA bylaws) until a permanent successor is named. A sports field now occupies a section of the Fairplex Park infield last used for horse racing in 2014. The field will accommodate community and club level field sports like soccer and lacrosse, primarily for youth leagues. Fairplex unveiled a plaque near the Administration building, Aug. 24, to honor Japanese Americans detained at the Los Angeles County Fairgrounds in 1942 during WWII. A 19-day Fair is Sept. 2-25.