Oct 13

The Del Mar Fair

Try this: Ask your muse what she wants to write about today. Then write. My muse wants me to write about the Del Mar Fair.

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Ferris Wheel, Bangor © Copyright Rossographer and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

Ferris Wheel, Bangor © Copyright Rossographer and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

Once upon a time, the San Diego Fair was called the Del Mar Fair. Because it was located in Del Mar. Makes sense, right? I’m not quite sure why San Diego felt the need to take over, since it’s another 30 miles further south, but I’m not a politician so I can’t explain it to you.


Each summer when I was a child, my parents loaded all eight kids into the van and drove us to Del Mar for the fair. We’d start the day looking at all the farm animals, since they were right near the entrance and my parents probably figured we wouldn’t be as interested later on.

We walked down the aisles looking at the penned animals, hoping they would come close enough to be pet. The fair seemed to arrange the animals according to increasing interest. We’d start with the goats and then move onto the sheep, then continue to the pigs, and finally finish with the cattle. The small animals like rabbits, guinea pigs, and chinchillas were housed in their own exhibit. They were kind of boring, so we didn’t spend much time there.

The chicken display would have been boring, too, but they had a hatchery where you could watch the baby chicks hatch. It was fun to watch the eggs crack, and then a small piece of egg would fall away exposing the struggling chick inside. The ones who finally made it looked so exhausted, heaving with the effort, looking haggard with their wet feathers plastered to their bodies. Next to the hatchery was the nursery for the baby chicks, plump and fuzzy and sweet. Sometimes, if the owners were nearby, we could hold the tiny things in our hands.

After the animals, we had to tolerate going through all of the grown-up exhibits. We looked at quilts (yawn), walked through gardens, looked at jewelry, and wandered through the art display. We pretended we were judges and approved or disapproved the awarding of yellow, red, and blue ribbons. Sometimes we agreed with the real judges’ decisions; sometimes they were way off.

Half-way through the day, my parents would take us to the Bing Crosby Hall where all the vendors had their booths. My mom made a beeline for the free massage chairs. We kids were fascinated by the Sparkletts Water display. They had a giant floating faucet with water flowing from it, seemingly out of thin air. Later, when I was older, I figured out that there was a pump going through the middle of the stream. Knowing how it worked took the magic out of it.

The presenters with their microphones competed for the attendees attention, hawking their goods and trying to build their audience. I enjoyed the cooking demonstrations the best, as the vendors showed us amazing appliances that would chop and dice and slice, or wondrous knives that would cut through a soda can. If we were lucky, they would cook up some food and give us a free sample.

I learned my horoscope and had my handwriting analyzed. I bought turquoise jewelry, a mood ring, rubber shoes that were supposed to be just like walking barefoot, and a blown-glass crystal bird. Luckily, I never had my hair cut with a Flowbee. My brothers, however, were not so lucky.

I don’t know why greasy food always tastes better at the fair, but it does. We enjoyed corn dogs and corn on the cob and french fries and lemonade. We bought candied apples and cotton candy. Once, we ate dinner at Chuck-o-Rama, but my brother got sick and threw up. We called it UpChuck-o-Rama after that, and we never ate their again.

We saved the rides for last, a reward for being good during all the adult exhibits. Our parents gave us each a fistful of tickets, and we carefully calculated how many rides we could go on. I was the first one brave enough to go on the ferris wheel with my dad. It was cool to look out over the city from the top. The bumper cars were a favorite of all of us. We went on a lot of rides that spun in circles. For some reason, spinning is fun. My older sister dared me to go on the octopus ride, which was a giant black octopus with eight arms extended and cars that spun attached to each arm. So, the arms would spin in a circle, but each car would spin as well. It made us sick, but we did not throw up. We were very proud of that.

After a long day, we would trudge back to the van, weary, happy, and satisfied. We fell asleep long before we got home, leaving my dad to make several trips back and forth to carry each one of us to bed.


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  1. lcrilley

    A few years ago I spent a wonderful week on vacation in Del Mar. I wish we would have been there during fair time! Thanks for sharing your memories with us. Seem like a great time!

    1. Shelli Proffitt Howells

      I’m glad you were able to enjoy time in Del Mar. It’s a lovely city, and I love the beach!

  2. Romi

    Thank you for sharing your wonderful memories.

    1. Shelli Proffitt Howells

      You’re welcome, Romi!

  3. Karissa Ancell (@KarissaAncell)

    I don’t care what they say it will always be the Del Mar fair to me. It has been since I was a little girl going in the 80’s and you can’t change it now.

    1. Shelli Proffitt Howells

      Amen! I feel the same way!

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