DEL MAR — After more than 20 years at the Del Mar Fairgrounds — most of them as deputy general manager — Becky Bartling is leaving the seaside facility effective Dec. 1.
“This is a very, very special place, and I don’t know that there’s anywhere else like it,” Bartling said at the Nov. 10 meeting of the 22nd District Agricultural Association when her departure was announced. “I’m definitely going to miss everybody, and I appreciate everything everybody’s done for me.”
Bartling was hired in January 1994 as the first full-time box office manager. Her initial task was automating the antiquated ticket system.
A few years later the 22nd DAA, which oversees the fairgrounds, created a haunted house now know as The Scream Zone.
General Manager Tim Fennell said Bartling was instrumental in helping to get the event off the ground, earning her the nickname “The Queen of Scream.”
In 2000 she was named event coordinator. Three years later she was promoted to deputy general manager and a few years ago was named chief operating officer.
Bartling oversees interim event activities, with four departments and the Del Mar Horsepark equestrian facility reporting directly to her. She is also responsible for administering the district’s master plan, supervising the senior environmental planner and booking all grandstand acts during the San Diego County Fair.
Her memorable moments throughout her nearly 22 years include the facility being used as a wildfire evacuation site in 2003, 2007 and 2014. With the experience she recently helped the Napa County Fairgrounds Association during the Valley Fire in Northern California.
Bartling also recalled the day the paid parking program started in 1994.
“It was pouring rain and we didn’t have any cashier booths, which resulted in rain-soaked cashiers and money that we had to dry with a hair dryer,” she said. “It was a bit chaotic but everyone had great humor about the situation.”
Bartling had nothing but praise for everyone associated with the fairgrounds.
“This is truly an amazing board (of directors),” she said. “Tim is an amazing, amazing man to work for. Our team — there’s nothing like it in the industry.
“We have an amazing team that is dedicated and is talented and will do anything to make this facility successful, which you can see in our bottom line,” she added. “It’s not like most fairs’ bottom line.”
The San Diego County Fair is consistently rated among the top 10 fairs in the country.
Board President Fred Schenk said Bartling is “highly regarded” in the industry and performs at “a level that is unmatched by anyone else.”
“We appreciate what you’ve done for us,” he said.
“I not only consider Becky a good friend,” Fennell said. “She’s been a great business partner, and I’m probably going to miss her more than anybody. I wish her all the best. I know she’s going to be successful wherever she goes.
“We’re going to leave a light on for her in case she comes to her senses and changes her mind and decides to come back,” he added.
“I will be back to enjoy the fair,” Bartling said.
After working with the organizers of the inaugural KAABOO three-day music festival, which was held at the fairgrounds in September, Bartling was offered a position with that company.
She said she turned that down for another job, which at press time she was unable to disclose.
Her replacement has not been named.