'Sweet' Year For San Diego Fair

Concert series including Sugarland, Banda MS draws 135,000 to Del Mar

  • by Brad Weissberg
  • Published: July 5, 2018

Little Big Town was one of the big acts that appeared at the Toyota Grandstand at the San Diego County Fair this year.

Overall attendance for the 2018 San Diego County Fair concert series hit 135,000 this year at California’s biggest fair. About 30 acts were showcased on the Toyota-sponsored grandstand stage from June 1 to July 4. The fair, held in Del Mar, Calif., since 1880, is one of the top five fairs in North America.

The biggest draw was a show by Latin band Banda MS, who drew more than 8,000 fans. Other big acts to appear included Sugarland, Little Big Town, Kansas, Hanson, Barenaked Ladies, Ramon Ayala and comedian Gabriel “Fluffy’ Iglesias.

“The biggest paid acts were Sugarland, Little Big Town and Banda MS,” said Cathy Mordente, manager of the special events department for the fair. “The biggest free show was a special Thursday night performance by Ramon Ayala, which attracted over 5,000 fans.”

Sugarland and Little Big Town saw crowds between 7,000 and 8,000, she said.

Ticket prices ranged from $78 to $193 for Sugarland, $32 to $87 for Little Big Town and
$55 to $78 for Banda MS.

“It was a great year for the concert series,” Mordente said. “We try to present a varied series in terms of diversity, style and genres. This year we really hit it on the head and had something for everyone.”

The Sunday night Día de las Familias, programmed for the large Hispanic population in the region bordering Mexico, was “a huge hit and highly attended by both Hispanics and non-Hispanics.”

Comedians did well at the fair this year, with guests packing in to see Ingelsias and a show by Jeff Ross.

Mordente said that having Hanson was “a thrill. They put on a great show and were terrific to everyone here.”

“Overall we were all very pleased with how the concerts went,” Mordente said. “We started booking acts for 2019 from the day the fair opened this year. There’s a lot of competition for the best talent, and you have to get in there early to book them.”

The total number of entertainment shows scheduled at the fair was a whopping 1,575, with 512 groups booked on the stages and 28,050 performing.

Attendance at the fair was 1,561,236, just short of the record of 1,609,481 set in 2016. This year’s theme was "How Sweet It Is” and featured “a magical candyland of sumertime fun.”

“The icing on top of the fair experience included vendors who offered unique 'unicorn foods,' including everything from cotton candy ice cream sandwiches to rainbow-colored kettle corn,” said a statement from the communication department.

Premiere Food Services is the concessionaire at San Diego County Fair. “There were record-breaking F&B numbers in both the Midway and with Premier,” said Mordente. “Premier alone had over $5 million in sales this year.”

The fair’s International Beer Festival drew 6,813 over its three-day run. The Toast of California Wine Festival entertained 1,762 at two tasting sessions over the one-day event. This year’s Distilled Sprit and Cocktail Festival doubled last year’s attendance, drawing 1,539 guests.

  • by Brad Weissberg
  • Published: July 5, 2018