By Steve Large

STOCKTON (CBS13) — Bet you haven’t heard this one before: A California county fair closing down.

You haven’t, because it’s never happened.

The San Joaquin County Fair could be closing for the first time since it was established—the same year Abraham Lincoln became president.

The San Joaquin County Fairgrounds off-track betting site is going to stay open, but the odds of the fair’s 150-year history continuing is suddenly a longshot.

“Why they gonna close the fair down, man?”

It’s a ballooning financial crisis at the fairgrounds.

The signs are still standing tall, but of the 78 county fairs in the state, San Joaquin’s would be the first to fold.

Established in 1860, 2013 could be the end.

The numbers show recent attendance has dropped from 2007 with 146,000 visitors to an all-time low this year of just 65,000.

The fair reports everything was down in 2013—carnival rides, parking and food sales. The fair missed its estimated revenue by 48 percent.

All of this comes as the city of Stockton struggles with bankruptcy.

Not everyone is sentimental about the looming shutdown though.

“That’s a good idea. Close it. Keep everybody broke. Let them be home with their family.”

One recent finance report showed the fair board considering using more volunteers to try cutting costs.

But that’s only half the problem.

The fair also needs to make it fun enough that people will want to pay.

It could be the fair’s final juggling act.

The finish line’s right around the corner. The timeline to find a solution is just three months away. And no fix would mean no fair.


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