DEL MAR — The creative minds at the Del Mar Fairgrounds combined 19th century children’s novels with science fiction and fantasy inspired by the same era to come up with the theme for the 2016 San Diego County Fair.
Dubbed “Mad About the Fair,” the annual event will feature exhibits and events based on Lewis Carroll’s “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” and “Through the Looking Glass,” steampunk, cosplay and makers.
“We are going to fuse these genres together … to create a weird, whacky and whimsical experience that will appeal to multiple generations, but especially the millennials, those who were born in the early ’80s, and the Gen Z-ers that were born in the mid to late ’90s,” exhibits director Katie Mueller said at the Sept. 8 22nd District Agricultural Association board of directors meeting, when the theme and dates were announced.
“The fair will be a fantasy world where the limits are only your imagination,” she added.
Steampunk incorporates technology and aesthetic designs inspired by industrial steam-powered machinery. Sometimes referred to as neo-Victorian, it can also include elements of fantasy, horror and historical fiction and can be applied to inventions, clothing and art.
The Dragon Knights wandering entertainers at this year’s fair are an example of steampunk, Mueller said.
A blend of the words costume and play, cosplay is a performance art in which participants wear costumes to represent a specific character.
Early plans include croquet games with the Queen of Hearts — some may recall the mallets in “Alice in Wonderland” are flamingoes — topiaries shaped as characters from the books, deep-fried tea and crumpets, table and cupcake decorating contests, a Mad Hatter tea party, white rabbit displays in the livestock area and a nightclub tea party in the Paddock.
“The weirder and crazier the better,” Mueller said, noting the focus will be on attracting younger fairgoers. “I think this is a great theme because I think people immediately identify with the story. It doesn’t need a whole lot of explanation and people have fond memories. … I think we can have a lot of fun with this.”
“I’m totally impressed,” Director David Watson said. “This is going to be a lot of fun.”
Board President Fred Schenk said he received positive feedback from young adults he’s talked to.
“It’s unique and different but we’re trailblazers in so many ways,” Schenk said.
The 2016 fair will open at 4 p.m. June 3, 2016 and run through July 4 but be closed the first three Mondays and first two Tuesdays.
In other news, a judge on Sept. 1 sided with the fairgrounds, upholding the approval of two coastal development permits and rejecting arguments by the Sierra Club that the development authorized by the permits violated the Coastal Act.
The lawsuit was filed following a 2012 settlement between the 22nd DAA, which governs the fairgrounds, and the California Coastal Commission in which the seaside facility agreed to convert back to wetlands an overflow parking lot on the southern portion of its property.
The permits, approved in November 2013, authorized a second thoroughbred horse racing meet in the fall and year-round parking and temporary events on an overflow lot to the east and the golf driving range.
The Sierra Club objected, saying parts of the east overflow lot should also be converted.
“Following a careful review of the facts and the applicable law, we are pleased that the court properly upheld the two coastal development permits approved by the California Coastal Commission, thus allowing the 22nd DAA to continue providing the citizens of San Diego with the longstanding services to which they are entitled,” Schenk said.