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Costa Mesa’s Orange County fairgrounds stayed busy throughout the coronavirus pandemic — offering COVID-19 tests, vaccinations and hosting a number of drive-thru events — but for the first time in a long while, the site is getting back to what it does best.

The 164-foot La Grande Wheel XL is being assembled, carnival game booths are coming into being and farm animals are being groomed for showing in preparation for the 2021 O.C. Fair, which runs July 16 through Aug. 15.

This year’s theme “Time for Fun” couldn’t be more fitting, after organizers pulled the plug on last year’s fair at the beginning of a pandemic that’s only now is showing signs of receding.

Since crew trucks started rolling onto the fairgrounds in mid-June, the same time as California businesses began reopening with fewer restrictions, a collective feeling of elation has started to rise, said Michele Richards, chief executive of the O.C. Fair and Event Center.

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