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Volume 8, Issue 11  |  February 7, 2023Subscribe

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Take Five: Meet Michele Richards, general manager and CEO, OC Fair & Event Center

By AMY SENK

Rides, games, animals, music, deep-fried delicacies made from hot dogs and Flamin’ Hot Cheetos and even vegetarian food options this year like the Ten Pound Buns for a yummy avocado toast! If you missed the OC Fair last year when it was COVID-canceled, it’s not too late to make up for it this summer. The fair, with advance ticket sales only, will run through August 15 (Wednesdays through Sundays). I caught up with Michele Richards, the OC Fair & Event Center general manager/CEO, to learn more.

Take Five Michele Richards

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Photos courtesy of OC Fair & Event Center

General Manager/CEO Michelle Richards, OC Fair & Event Center

Q: Now that the OC Fair is back this summer, what can a fair visitor expect this year?

A: Guests can expect all the fun and joy that they’ve come to know and expect from the OC Fair. The OC Fair is a community tradition, and we’re thrilled that we’ve brought it back again. Our staff has worked tirelessly over the last year to develop our COVID health and safety plan, and recently was designated as a GBAC Star Facility from the prestigious Global Biorisk Advisory Council.

Q: Can you tell me more about what it was like last summer when the decision was made to close the fair for the first time since World War II?

A: While canceling the 2020 OC Fair was the right thing to do, it was nevertheless difficult news to deliver to the community. The annual OC Fair is a beloved community tradition, and not having it in 2020 was a huge disappointment to staff, our partners and our guests. Once we got over our initial disappointment, we rallied together as a team and immediately began working on plans to bring back the fair and our year-round events.

Q: A lot of people think of the fair in terms of their personal enjoyment, but I read in a news release a comment about its importance to the county’s economic development and growth. Can you address how the fair drives job creation and helps the county financially? 

A: The annual OC Fair is a major economic driver in Orange County with a $300 million economic impact each year. The fair creates approximately 4,000 jobs annually and provides opportunities for hundreds of small businesses in the community.

Take Five girl eating corn

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Fair food, always a crowd pleaser

Q: How are ticket sales and crowds so far, and how have they been different from other years?

A: Advanced ticket sales are going very well with several sold-out dates since the beginning of the fair. People are so thrilled to have the OC Fair return and they are showing it by purchasing their tickets ahead of time online. It’s wonderful to see our guests back at the OC Fair and everyone is having an exceptional time.

Q: What is your favorite part of the fair, and what is your favorite fair memory?

A: I absolutely love watching the fair on the faces of our guests. Sometimes it’s in the wonderment of a child’s eyes when they meet one of our Fair Foodies costume characters, or the screams of a guest who is brave enough to ride the Titan. And sometimes it’s the look of pure joy as a family shares a giant turkey leg together. There’s just nothing better.

Take Five boy on ride

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Feeling like he can fly…

Editor’s Notes: Here are some key things to know before you head out to the OC Fair:

–A limited number of tickets are available each day and some days are selling out. Tickets are $12 for weekday general admission (Wednesday, Thursday) and $14 for weekend general admission (Friday, Saturday, Sunday). Admission for seniors (60+) and youth (ages 6-12) is $7 every day and children 5 and younger are free.

–Advance online ticket sales only with no transaction fees.

–Tickets are good only for the date purchased, so choose dates carefully as there are no refunds.

–Same-day fair admission is included with tickets to concerts during the fair.

–Masks are required indoors for unvaccinated guests.

–The fair opens each day at 10 a.m. and closes at 11 p.m. on Wednesdays and Thursdays and midnight on the weekends.

For more information and to purchase tickets, visit www.ocfair.com/thefair.

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Amy Senk is a longtime resident of Corona del Mar and a regular contributor to Stu News Newport.

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