Tickets for future weekends are going quickly, and seats for a handful of the Pacific Amphitheatre shows have all been snapped up, officials said. As a pandemic precaution, attendance is capped at 45,000 people – 75% of the average seen in the past.
“We’re thrilled that people are figuring out how to buy tickets and coming and having a great time,” fair spokeswoman Terry Moore said. “But we want our customers to be aware that they have to get their tickets early. We just don’t want folks to be disappointed in the future.”
The 23-day fair runs through Aug. 15 (it’s closed Mondays and Tuesdays); tickets must be purchased in advance online ($12 general admission Wednesdays and Thursdays and $14 Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays; $7 daily for children and seniors). The fair is covering Ticketmaster’s convenience fees.
On Wednesday, fairgoers paraded around with plushies, cold beers and fried favorites as they enjoyed the fairground’s lively atmosphere.
Cara Bridenbaker of Tustin and her 7-year-old son, Conrad, said they were enjoying the fair’s open air and spaced out activities. The mother-son duo got lucky with prizes, happily carrying a stuffed pineapple squishmallow they won on the midway.
“I like that it’s not too crowded. We’ve been having a good time so far,” Bridenbaker said.
Squishmallows are all the rage this year, said Chris Lopez, vice president of RCS, the fair’s provider of games, rides and some of the food stands. The marshmallow-shaped stuffed toys resembling cute animals and food items were hanging in all sizes from booths up and down the rows of carnival games.
Pokémon and unicorn plushies are also back, and Bob Ross dolls have been really popular with guests.
“We expect to give 500,000 stuffed toys and prizes away at the 2021 Orange County Fair, which happens to be our 60th anniversary,” Lopez said. “We have 18 53-foot trailers scheduled for delivery throughout the fair’s five-weekend run. That doesn’t include the inventory that we started with, and those deliveries that came while setting up.”
Gone are the days of waiting in line to buy tickets for carnival games and rides – now, you can do it all from your phone before you even get to the fairgrounds. RCS’s FunPass app makes purchasing ride and game credits “super easy,” Lopez said.
“Using the app is so much better because there’s no wristbands required, and you don’t need to worry about losing anything,” Brittaney Davies of Los Angeles said as she made her way over to ride the 170-foot Titan.
The OC Fair also has an app available with a map and schedules of the entertainment. Both have been around for years, but this summer officials are pushing harder than ever for their use, Moore said.
“We’re trying to keep everybody as safe as we can, which is why we’re pushing the apps and touchless payment,” she said.
Once deciding to go ahead with this year’s fair, officials held off on a price increase, keeping the cost for admission, parking, games and rides at 2019 levels – some fair favorites did return this year. The Action Sports Arena is dark this summer and the livestock offerings have been cut back.
Still, the fairgoers were happy to be back.
“I get super passes for my daughters, their husbands and their kids every Christmas. It’s a family tradition,” said Nancy Reaves of Costa Mesa, who was at opening day on Friday with 16 family members. She came back with a childhood friend on Wednesday. “Life is so full of things to do, and I never stop having fun.”
Reaves, 73, has been a loyal fair attendee for 41 years. Because 2020 was canceled, fair officials are honoring the super pass she bought last year – she’ll probably go five to 10 times. Tickets purchased to rescheduled concerts are also still good.
Stopping to pet the farm animals remained a must-do for many. Before he went to indulge in the deep-fried Oreos he missed last summer, Gabriel Arraz of Downey took time to see the angora goats.“One thing that I miss this year is seeing more of the animals,” Arraz, 17, said. “I’m bummed that there are less events with them. I especially enjoyed seeing the camels in the past.”
Guests can still pet goats and sheep and watch the all-Alaskan racing pigs in the Plaza Pacifica this summer.
“We just have such a blast every time we’re here,” Reaves said. “The wait was definitely worth it.”