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Saturday, August 13, 2022

L.A. County Fair moving from searing September to milder May

A nearly 100-year tradition of celebrating junk food, carnival rides and farm animals in blazing September temperatures is over.

Starting next year, the Los Angeles County Fair is permanently moving its three-week jamboree to the much cooler spring month of May.

The COVID-19 pandemic led to the cancellation of the 2020 and 2021 fairs, but before that, faltering attendance at the annual event was blamed on scorching summer temperatures. The operators of the fair have previously spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on shade areas, umbrella tables and water misters to keep visitors from losing their cool.

Rather than trying to overcome the increasing summer heat, the board of directors for the Los Angeles County Fair Assn. decided to reschedule to a moderately cooler month.

Additionally, the dates for next year’s fair — May 5-30 — encompass holidays, so fair operators can try to attract visitors to the Fairplex in Pomona to celebrate Cinco de Mayo, Mother’s Day and Memorial Day weekend.

“It was a good run,” interim Chief Executive Walter M. Marquez said in a statement. “Not many can say they were able to host a successful, iconic community event during the same timeframe for nearly 100 years.”

Although a full-fledged fair won’t happen this year, the Fairplex plans to host a food event in late September.

Moving the fair away from hot September weather had been considered in the past, but rescheduling to June or July would have created a conflict for local carnival operators and food vendors who were already scheduled to work at the Orange County, San Diego and Ventura County fairs, according to L.A. County Fair officials.

The move to May makes the Los Angeles County Fair the first major Southern California fair of the season and does not create a conflict with vendors, spokesperson Renee Hernandez said. She said having the fair closed for two years because of the pandemic has given fair operators time to study the change and rebook the vendors.

“The move from September to May opens summer with a big bang,” Ashley Murray, a commercial vendor of sunglasses, hats and jewelry at the fair since 1983, said in a statement. “I’ve been advocating for the fair to move its dates for ages.”

The 2019 fair drew 1.1 million visitors, down from about 1.25 million in 2018. Temperatures rose above 90 degrees on 14 out of the 19 days of the event that year. The Fairplex responded by installing more shade umbrellas, shade sails and mist-spewing cooling stations.

Early last year, the Fairplex announced plans to reduce daytime hours of the 2020 fair in hopes of attracting more visitors during the cooler evening hours. But that plan was scuttled a few months later when the pandemic forced the fair to be canceled for the first time since the 1940s.

Climate change pushed global temperatures into record territory last year, tying 2020 with 2016 as the hottest year on record, according to U.S. science agencies. Last year’s average global surface temperature was 2.2 degrees Fahrenheit above the late 19th century average. It was the fifth consecutive year of more than 2 degrees above that baseline, NASA data showed.

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