In the history of county fairs, the L.A. County Fair, now 87 years strong, stands out as the largest and the most committed to its public benefit mission. This year, in addition to offering value on everything from admission to carnival rides, the Fair is making a serious effort to make a difference in the lives of Southern California residents.
Now in its eighth year, the Fair’s “Day for Heroes” celebration was initially scheduled to be a one-day observance of Sept. 11, offering retired and active military and emergency service personnel and one guest to attend the Fair for $1 each. This year a tenacious fire season led the Fair to declare every Friday of the Fair a “Day for Heroes” so that all firefighters and emergency services personnel would be able to enjoy a day at the Fair. All $1 Day for Heroes admission are donated to USA Cares, which provides housing assistance, quality of life programs and combat injury support to the nation’s service men and women.
A partnership among the L.A. County Fair, Ralphs grocery stores and the Los Angeles Regional Foodbank has made every Friday of the Fair Ralphs Food Drive Friday. Each Fairguest who brings five cans of Ralphs brand canned goods to any Fair entry gate from noon to 6 p.m. every Friday of the Fair receives free Fair admission for that date.
Friday, Sept. 11, the inaugural Ralphs Food Drive Friday, the Fair collected nearly 8,000 cans of food for The Los Angeles Regional Foodbank. With public service assistance from local news media, the Fair more than doubled its donations on its second Ralphs Food Drive Friday, collecting 16,400 cans, allowing 3,280 guests to attend the Fair free.
Animal shelters and dog rescue organizations sponsored by West Coast Pet Expo set up their pet adoption booths in Bark Park each weekend during the Fair, reaching out to visitors who might be in need of a new four-legged friend. Last weekend, Fairguests adopted 15 dogs from the Riverside County Department of Animal Services.
Through a partnership with the American Red Cross, the Fair sponsored its annual blood drive Monday, Sept. 21 at Sheraton Fairplex hotel, rewarding donors with free weekday admission to the Fair. This year, more than 155 donors gave blood, filling all available spaces and more than tripling the Fair’s 2008 blood drive donations.
“We are thrilled to be able to offer this level of support to our neighbors and friends in need,” said Jim Henwood, president and CEO of the Los Angeles County Fair Association. “In today’s economic environment where the demand is great, the L.A. County Fair has an opportunity to fulfill its true purpose: creating a social and economic benefit. We will continue to add opportunities to increase our level of outreach this year and in the future.”
The L.A. County Fair continues Wednesday – Sunday through Oct. 4, closed Monday and Tuesday. Live thoroughbred horse racing continues through Monday, Sept. 28. For information on ways to save at the Fair, visit lacountyfair.com.