San Diego County Fair
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The information on this page applies to the 2015 San Diego County Fair, which ended July 5. Information on the 2016 Fair will be posted in the spring of 2016.


Theme Exhibit

"It All Started At A Fair"

1965 Ford MustangWhere did people see the first IMAX film and watch the first television set? Where did people first sample hot dogs, ice cream cones, Campbell's soup and brownies? Where did people ooh and aah over the Ford Mustang, which launched an entire car category of sporty, affordable two-door cars? At a fair, of course!

For centuries, fairs have been the gathering spot for people to have fun and share ideas. In 1851, a fair was organized in London on a massive scale. It became the first World's Fair. Ever since, the World's Fair was the place that people went to learn about other cultures and try out amazing inventions for the first time.

1915 Panama-California ExpositionCities around the world wanted to host a World's Fair. It was 100 years ago that San Diego's Balboa Park opened its doors to the world and became part of the tradition of World's Fair. Known as the Panama-California Exposition, San Diego's event continued the innovation that began with the Great Exhibition in London in 1851. The Panama-California Exposition celebrated the opening of the Panama Canal, and was meant to tout San Diego as the first U.S. port of call for ships traveling north after passing westward through the canal.




What you'll learn in the "It All Started at a Fair" Theme Exhibit

  • Eiffel TowerStructures built specifically for a World's Fair include: Paris' Eiffel Tower (pictured), Seattle's Space Needle, Montreal's Biosphere, Brussels' Atomium, New York City's Unisphere, and the completed head and torch-bearing arm of The Statue of Liberty, which was displayed in at the Philadelphia World's Fair of 1876.
  • Fair Food: World's Fairs held in America were particularly notable for new foods that became favorites. The 1893 Chicago World's Fair gave us brownies, hot dogs, Cream of Wheat and Cracker Jack; the 1904 St. Louis World's Fair introduced sliced bread, the ice cream cone, peanut butter, hamburgers and iced tea; Belgian waffles were served for the first time at the 1964 New York World's Fair; and Coca-Cola tested its version of Cherry Coke at the 1982 Knoxville World's Fair.
  • Ferris Wheel: Of the many inventions first experienced at fairs, the giant Ferris Wheel built for the 1893 Chicago World's Fair may be the granddaddy of them all. Ferris Wheels of all shapes and sizes continue to travel to fairs each year, and giant "observation wheels" are being built around the world every year.
  • Notable inventions first shown at a World's Fair: From A to Z, inventions first popularized at a World's Fair touch our lives every day: Air conditioning (1904); Braille (1893); the elevator (1853); fax machine (1964); Ford Mustang (1964); IMAX film (1970); Moon Rocks (1970); Nylon (1939); Photo Phone (1964); Television (1939); Videoconferencing (1964); X-ray machine (1901); Zipper (1893).
  • Spreckels Organ PavilionBuildings from the Panama-California Exposition still standing after 100 years: the Spreckels Organ Pavilion (pictured), the California Tower and Dome, and the Botanical Building.
  • Balboa Park: The host site in San Diego for the Panama-California Expo in 1915, Ever since the expo, Balboa Park has been considered the jewel of the city. Learn what you can see, do, experience and enjoy at Balboa Park. Did you know that Balboa Stadium was the first home of the San Diego Chargers or that the Lily Pond in Balboa Park was once used as a therapeutic pool for soldiers during World War II?
  • Architectural Relics of World's Fairs photo collection: Photographer Jade Doskow spent seven years exploring the grounds of former international expos, and continues today with a new point of view of the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco. A special selection of Ms. Doskow's collection will be on view, along with a special discussion with the photographer herself the second weekend of the Fair.
  • Photo Ops, anyone? Take a selfie or group photo with World's Fairs icons such as a giant box of Cracker Jacks; a set of Russian Nesting Dolls; a Tootsie Roll; Hamburger and his pal Hot Dog; the 1915 Panama-California Exposition highlight, the Electriquette; and even the Statue of Liberty as she was seen in 1878 at the Paris Expo.
  • Expo Milano 2015: Discover the exhibits and architecture at the Milan World's Fair through a virtual tour. The Milan World's Fair will be happening during the summer of 2015. Maybe it's time to plan a trip!

Speakers and events in the Theme Exhibit

Date Time Event
Daily Noon, 6:00PM & 8:00PM Balboa Park: Jewel of San Diego presentation
Daily 3:00PM Annie Oakley magic show
Daily 4:30PM The Greatest Thing Since Sliced Bread presentation
Daily Various Times Walkaround entertainers, such as strolling banjo, pennyfarthing bike, juggling and more!
Daily 12:30PM, 2:30PM & 6:30PM Comedy Flea Circus
June 6 1:30PM Stroll through Balboa Park with Ranger Kim
June 7 1:30PM "Where's the Fair?" documentary
June 10 1:30PM Balboa Park: Coastal Scrub to Garden Fair with Nancy Carol Carter
June 11 1:30PM Balboa Park's Centennial Celebration with Michael Ruiz
June 12 1:30PM "Where's the Fair?" documentary
June 13 1:30PM World's Fairs — Lost Utopias with Jade Doskow
June 14 1:30PM Stroll through Balboa Park with Ranger Kim
June 17 1:30PM They Planted Balboa Park: Sessions to Morley with Nancy Carol Carter
June 18 1:30PM "Where's the Fair?" documentary
June 19 1:30PM "Where's the Fair?" documentary
June 20 1:30PM Balboa Park's 1915 Exposition: A Walk Down El Prado with David Marshall
June 21 1:30PM Stroll through Balboa Park with Ranger Kim
June 23 1:30PM Balboa Park's Centennial Celebration with Michael Ruiz
June 24 1:30PM Balboa Park's Accidental Landscapers of 1915 with Nancy Carol Carter
June 25 - July 3 1:30PM "Where's the Fair?" documentary
July 4 1:30PM Stroll through Balboa Park with Ranger Kim
July 5 1:30PM "Where's the Fair?" documentary