Orange County Fair 2022: Packed with Fun, Not Crushing Crowds

Don Simkovich

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Attendance is capped this year like in 2021;Photo by OC Fair and Event Center

The Orange County Fair kicks off July 15 and runs until August 14. Expect a positive fair-going experience that includes plenty of room to stroll, reduced waiting times in lines, food perks, and admission prices that remain stable.

Ticket prices are $12 Wednesday and Thursday; $14 Friday – Sunday; Seniors and children are $7 with free admission for kids under age 5. No transaction fees on ticket orders.

But take note fairgoers—all tickets must be purchased online in advance and it’s likely that all fair days will sell out.

The Bottom Line: A Good Time

Fair operators want families to enjoy this year’s theme of “Feel the Sunshine” and not battle elbow-to-elbow.

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Plenty to do from food and music to livestock and demolition derbiesPhoto by OC Fair and Event Center

They’ve built on lessons learned from 2021 when the OC Fair reopened after the Covid-19 shutdown. Safety concerns lingered and hiring staff was challenging. Attendance was capped at 45,000 attendees per day and the feedback meant laying out a new success metric—the customer experience.

“We discovered that everyone had an amazing experience,” says Terry Moore, Communications Director. “Our neighbors were happier, our guests were happier and our vendors did really well. The lines were shorter, and we had fewer parking problems.”

And the Fair achieved a profitable bottom line when 17 of the 23 days in 2021 sold out.

The Fair was “right-sized,” says Moore without squeezing in as many folks as possible.

Overall attendance was still enviable and the OC Fair was “#1 in California in 2021 and #7 in the U.S. But those rankings were based solely on attendance numbers,” as quoted in the State of the Fair Report.

During planning sessions from September 2021 to March 2022, the decision was made to evaluate the overall experience including serving the community and making the even better, not just bigger.

Highlights: Food, Music and More

Ordering online means to plan ahead and buy tickets early especially for:

  • weekends
  • Thursdays when there are Fair Food Specials for $4.

New food items range from a float topped with hot Cheetos to a brand-new take on potstickers and even a sandwich topped with Cap’n Crunch.

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Plan early for food special ThursdaysPhoto by OC Fair and Event Center

Peddle a special blender bike in the Culinary Arts Building to mix up smoothies or margaritas.

Tribute bands include The Boston Experience on July 15 and Led Zepplica on July 16 with many more acts performing at The Hangar. Tickets will include same-day Fair admission.

The California Fresh Exhibit is celebrating The Bounty of Our Counties and Orange County’s agricultural role.

Click here for the complete Things to Do listings during the 23-day event.

Jobs at the OC Fair

Want seasonal work? The OC Fair is still hiring and offers positions for educators and students.

“It’s a great summer job and is a wonderful first job,” says Moore.

Available positions range from accounting and admissions to agriculture, entertainment and more.

Click here for current job openings.

About 1,500 seasonal workers are needed for people 16 and older.

The original Orange County Fair was held in 1890 by the Orange County Community Fair Corporation and featured a horse race and exhibits in Santa Ana.

Typically, the OC Fair has been the second-leading fair in California with San Diego taking the top spot, Los Angeles County in third and the State Fair in Sacramento rounding out the top.

The OC Fair address is 88 Fair Drive, Costa Mesa, 92626.

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I interview entrepreneurs, and dig into the news around Southern California, giving a voice to business owners, artists and more. I also co-write the thriller novel series Tom Stone Detective Stories.

Pasadena, CA
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