The San Diego County Fair began a tradition of annual themes starting in 1980, when the Fair celebrated 100 years. The themes were agricultural in nature until 1998, when the celebration of California's Sesquicentennial lent itself to a theme exhibit on the state's history.
The Fair has been known by three names during its history: The San Diego County Fair from 1880 to 1953 and from 2002 to present; as the Southern California Exposition and San Diego County Fair from 1954 to 1969; as the Southern California Exposition from 1970 to 1982; and as the Del Mar Fair from 1983 through 2001. These names are sometimes reflected in the theme.
||"A Fair To Remember: Celebrate The World's Fairs & Balboa Park"
||Where did people first try a hot dog, see the first IMAX movie and learn about the latest technology? At a World's Fair, of course! This theme celebrated the centennial of the Panama-California Exposition, when the world came to San Diego, and when Balboa Park became the jewel of America's Finest City.
||"The Fab Fair"
||The Fair has always been fab-u-lous, but this year it was official! The Fab Fair paid tribute to The Beatles and the "British Invasion" that changed America's music scene 50 years ago.
||The Fair spotlighted classic and nostalgic games and showed how games evolved over the years. Games of all types were celebrated: board games, pinball, television, videos, and computers, and the technology that has enhanced gaming culture beyond our wildest dreams.
||"Out Of This World"
||The Fair explored outer space, both its serious side with exploration and observation of the universe, and its fun side, with space aliens and science fiction.
||"Race To The Fair"
||Southern California life revolves around cars. They get us where we want to go, and reflect our personalities. The Fair celebrated this lifestyle with many car events and car displays.
||"Taste the Fun"
||Food was the feature of the 2010 Fair — not only the food that everyone loves to eat at the Fair, but also the food grown right here in San Diego County, the food our region's fabulous chefs create, the wine and beer that accompany our meals and is made in our region, and much, much more.
||Our 2009 theme celebrated that which feeds our souls — music. From rock to country to big band to music from around the world, the Fair featured all types of music, as well as a historical look at music through the centuries.
||"Summer of Sports"
||Our 2008 theme celebrated a wide variety of sports at all levels, from youth to professional. The Fair featured a theme exhibit with sports displays such as Ivan Stewart's Baja off-road racing truck, a collection of Olympic medals from every modern Olympics, Sports Illustrated covers featuring athletes with a San Diego connection, and much more. Sports celebrities who were on hand included baseball Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn, Charger Shawne Merriman, Olympic and professional soccer star Shannon MacMillan, off-road racer Ivan Stewart, boxer Julio César Chávez, and many more.
||"Salute to Heroes"
||The 2007 theme celebrated those among us whose words or deeds set them apart, such as public safety personnel, soldiers, sailors, doctors, nurses, paramedics, fathers, mothers, children and service animals.
||"Ride the Tide to Fun"
||In partnership with the famed environmental artist, Wyland. Theme exhibits and attractions focused on our most precious resource, water. A highlight of the theme was the painting of a giant "Whaling Wall" mural by Wyland on a brand-new building that was completed just a few days before the Fair opened. The mural took a week to paint, measures approximately 65 feet high by 200 feet long, and depicts California gray whales. It can be seen from nearby Interstate 5.
||In partnership with the San Diego Film Commission, the San Diego Cinema Society and the San Diego Historical Society. The "Filming San Diego: Hollywood's Backlot" exhibit displayed posters, photos, artifacts and costumes from films made in San Diego.
||A celebration of the 100th anniversary of the birth of Dr. Seuss (Theodor Seuss Geisel), the late author and illustrator of children's books. The "Oh, The Places You'll Go" interactive exhibit celebrated the genius and imagination of one of San Diego's most famous citizens.
||"Commotion by the Ocean"
||A salute to the sights, sounds and treasures the ocean brings to San Diego, in partnership with Birch Aquarium and Scripps Institute of Technology.
||"Elvis: A Tribute to the King of Rock & Roll"
||Celebrating the career of the late Elvis Presley. The theme exhibit, “It’s Now or Never" showcased the singer's accomplishments with music, movies, memorabilia, special events contests and exhibits.
||"The Endless Summer"
||Celebrating California's outdoor lifestyle, showcasing displays of action sports.
||Salute to the Golden State's fun/sun/surf lifestyle, featuring displays of vintage longboards, photos and personal appearances by surfing icons. Also the finale of the statewide celebration of the 150th anniversary of California statehood.
||"The Rush is on to the Del Mar Fair"
||Continuing the California Sesquicentennial celebration. The "Gotta Go! Movin' to San Diego" exhibit showcased stories of families who moved to San Diego and their method of transportation, from ox carts to RVs.
||Celebrating the California Sesquicentennial. The theme exhibit depicted gold discovery at Sutter's Mill, 'golden' harvest' (foods grown in San Diego County), and California's missions.
||"Down Home on the Farm"
||Saluting San Diego County's agricultural industry. The “Stars & Mars" exhibit featured planets, stars and space exploration, views of the Mars landing on July 4, co-produced by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
||"Far Out, Furry & Family Fun"
||Celebrating rare and unusual plants, produce and livestock. The “Seeds of Change" exhibit depicted the voyages of Columbus and the exchange of plants, animals and people between the Old and New Worlds.
||"Flowers, Feathers and Old Fashioned Fun"
||Featuring poultry and petunias. This year also began the tradition of a major exhibit, which this year was "Home of the Brave," commemorating the 50th anniversary of the end of World War II.
||"Fun for Ewe at the Del Mar Fair"
||A salute to lettuce and lambs
||"Wheels and Squeals"
||Celebrating the swine industry and the centennial of the Ferris wheel
||"Horsing Around, a 24-Carrot Love-A-Fair"
||Saluting the horse industry of San Diego County
||"Better Get Mooovin'"
||Saluting the cow and dairy industry, Mumsy and her calf, Butterfly, mascots
||"It's Hoppening! Rabbits and Roses"
||Saluting the rose and rabbit industries, Rosalie Rabbit, mascot
||"Get Crackin'...It's All For You!"
||Saluting the poultry and egg industries of San Diego County, Brooster Rooster, mascot
||"Beef at the Beach"
||Saluting the beef industry and our location
||"It's All For You!"
||Greta the Goat, mascot
||"It's a Good Feeling!"
||Gus the Goose, mascot
||"It's a Good Feeling!"
||Sheila the Chartreuse Sheep, mascot
||"It's a Good Feeling!"
||Petey the Purple Pig, mascot
||"There's Country in the Air at the Del Mar Fair!"
||"The Expo and You", "Let Yourself Go at the Expo"
||"More Fun in '81"
||"The fun starts early ... lasts till midnight!"
||Expo 80 (100th Anniversary)