For the first time since World War II, the annual Orange County Fair has been canceled this year due to the coronavirus pandemic, officials announced Monday.
The O.C. Fair & Event Center board voted unanimously to cancel the fair, which was scheduled to open July 17.
“The decision to cancel the 2020 OC Fair was not taken lightly by the Board,” Board Chair Sandra Cervantes said in a statement. “As Governor-appointed representatives the Board has a responsibility to provide a safe experience to the community-at-large, the hundreds of people who depend on county fairs for their livelihood, fairgoers and OC Fair staff.”
The dayslong fair draws more than 1.3 million of visitors to the Costa Mesa fairgrounds every summer, bringing in $350 million annually, according to the the O.C. Fair & Event Center.
It had been a summer staple in Southern California for decades, only previously being canceled between 1942 and 1947 during wartime, officials said.
“While many of our guests have expressed extreme disappointment over the idea of the 2020 Fair being canceled, we strongly believe it is the right thing to do in this current situation,” Cervantes said.
The O.C. Fair will join other events and venues in going virtual, at least partially, to provide Californians entertainment amid the stay-at-home orders.
“We will keep the spirit of the OC Fair alive with virtual fair concepts such as contests, competitions, entertainment and concessions to bring the fair experience to guests through ocfair.com and social media,” Cervantes said.
Information on refunds for concert tickets and Super Passes can be found online.
The Board’s decision was based on guidance from state and local health officials on the coronavirus pandemic and “the improbability that mass gatherings like the OC Fair could safely and responsibly take place this summer,” a statement from fair officials read.
Earlier this month, officials announced the Orange County fairgrounds would be used as a site to temporarily house unsheltered people who are vulnerable to COVID-19, and for potential emergency medical facilities, the Los Angeles Times reported.
Gov. Gavin Newsom had called for the cancellation of mass gatherings after declaring a state of emergency in early March as the virus spread throughout the state.
The guidance was followed by amusement parks across the state announcing then extending closures. Disneyland, Universal Studios, Legoland and many others have been closed for weeks, promising annual pass holders extensions on their expiration dates.
On March 19, the governor issued sweeping stay-at-home orders, telling California’s 40 million residents to stay home indefinitely and venture outside only for essential jobs, errands and some exercise.
It’s still unclear when amusement parks will reopen or how they would change after orders are lifted.
In Orange County, more than 2,000 people have tested positive for the coronavirus, including 39 people who died.
In neighboring Los Angeles County, more than 19,500 have tested positive as of Sunday, accounting for the largest virus hotspot in the state, which has had more than 43,700 cases of COVID-19, according to an independent tally by the Times.