A family scores some corn near the front gate — only $4.17 an ear! Bargain!
  • A family scores some corn near the front gate — only $4.17 an ear! Bargain!
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By Wednesday, June 11, the third day of its four-week run, the San Diego County Fair was in full swing. Traffic was backing up on northbound I-5 by 10:30 a.m.

As a regular fair fanatic, I’ve learned some things to help one enjoy the fair more:

Corn on the cob lovers should stop in the first stand after entering the main gate. For only $4.17 (tax included) one can slather their barbecued cob with mayonnaise, butter, salt, pepper, and lemon juice. Do it at any other stand and it will cost you $5.44.

Game-playing tip: ask the carnie to demonstrate the game for you — from your position outside of the railing. If they can’t, or choose not to, it’s a rigged game. Rigged just enough to be legal, but just enough to take in lots of dough.

The worst offenders are the basketball-shoot and football-throw games. The balls are overinflated so they’ll bounce off anything. The basketball rings are smaller than regulation size.

At the football-toss, I asked the carnie to show me that the ball would go through the hole to win the prize. It did, but only if thrown at a straight 90-degree angle to the hole and with less than a quarter-inch clearance on all sides.

Looking for cheap food? There is a secret restaurant that offers fair food at reduced prices. It is supposed to be for carnies, fair workers, and volunteers. But I was told if your money is green and you don’t make it obvious (like walking in with a bunch of kids), they generally won’t ask any questions. See if you can find Viv’s Café hidden in the carnival area. Clue: head toward the infield tunnel.

How about free food? Every day in the Home & Hobby building, under the grandstands, the Tupperware Company puts on a food demo. Not only will you learn the company is still in business, but they pass out hefty samples of their cooking.

Need a non-fried snack? Albertsons, one of the sponsors, hosts their “Rejuvenation Station” — a tiki hut on the way to the infield bridge. They sell drinks, fruit, yogurt, chips, priced only a buck or two higher than their supermarkets.

To escape the sun’s rays and cool off, hang in the Design in Wood building. A strong ocean breeze gets trapped in a long, dark hallway directly behind it and funnels into the building. It’s the lowest temperature you’ll find in any building. 

1958 Del Mar Fair's Fairest of the Fair, Raquel Tejada (later Raquel Welch), and Don Diego (aka Tommy Hernandez)

Historical footnote: The writer remembers when former fair mascot Don Diego and the Fairest of the Fair beauty contest winner would visit local schools and pass out free “kids' day” tickets. The duo would walk in each classroom dressed up in traditional Mexican costumes and announce, “¡Bienvenidos boys and girls!”

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Ken Harrison June 20, 2014 @ 3:19 p.m.

Great suggestion Chef Marian. I'll be there! Are you in the Paddock, or in kiddieland? Not sure of the area you describe.


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