Orange County Fairgrounds

Long before the end of World War II, there were offices in the Pentagon trying to decide what to do with all of the property the government had acquired over the past decade, first for the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), then the military. Five years after the war, Washington had divested itself of much of its wartime surplus real estate, but much had remained unaltered.

The state of California purchased a large portion of the Santa Ana Army Air Base, a massive wartime training facility, and apportioned part of that to become the Orange County Fairgrounds.

In the past five years, the fairgrounds have become a political football, with one governor (Schwarzenegger) arguing for their privatization, and another (Brown) urging that the land be retained by the state. The loss of the county fair would be a pity – if nothing else, county fairs are a quintessentially American event that no child should be without, and our fairs in California each seem to be better or different.

But there is no denying that the urban counties of California have left behind the agricultural endeavors that were the original basis for such events. If the Orange County Fair and others like it up and down the state are to survive the exigencies of development and fiscal austerity, they must discover anew their purpose in the future of the State, not just its past.

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