Fairplex, formerly known as the Los Angeles County Fairgrounds, has been since 1922 the home of the L.A. County Fair. It is located in the city of Pomona, California. The L.A. County Fair is now held during the month of September, but the facility is used year-round to host a variety of educational, commercial, and entertainment such as trade and consumer shows, conventions, and sporting events.
Fairplex is owned by the County of Los Angeles, but is leased to and is governed by an independent, self-supporting non-profit organization, the Los Angeles County Fair Association, which manages and produces the county fair and re-invests surplus revenues generated by the fair and other events in the maintenance and development of the facility.
Having begun in 1922 with 43 acres (170,000 m2) donated by the City of Pomona, the Fairplex grounds now cover 543 acres (2.2 km2) and include nearly 325,000 square feet (30,200 m2) of indoor exhibit space. Slightly less than half of the grounds are given over to paved parking areas to accommodate 30,000 vehicles. Among other features of Fairplex are various scenic parks, plazas and picnic areas, a historic train exhibit, and 12 acres (49,000 m2) of carnival grounds.
Livestock Shows and 4-H
Most of the livestock and small stock shows during the county fair including 4-H competitions have been dismantled and the buildings allowed to deteriorate. Once a prestigious livestock show with show horses, cattle, swine, goats, sheep, poultry, and rabbit competitions., the management decided to stop funding this historic aspect of the fair much to the disappointment of the region's livestock community. The management hired a decorator to attach faux barn and country scenes to the show buildings. In place of 4-H kids and their projects, management rents petting zoo animals. The management has taken the further step to discontinue allowing any such shows during the off season. Many historic local clubs and associations were displaced with not having a safe venue for their events as they had for over 50 years.
Historic Train Exhibit
The historic train exhibit is owned and maintained by the Southern California Chapter of the Railway & Locomotive Historical Society, and until November 2013 was the home to one of the world's largest steam locomotives, Union Pacific Big Boy 4014, which has been acquired by the Union Pacific Railroad and was moved to Cheyenne, Wyoming for a multi-year restoration that will return 4014 to operation.
The garden railroad train exhibit is called the Fairplex Garden Railroad. It has over 80 volunteers and from Nov through July, runs the second Sunday of every month, from 11:00am to 4:00pm, for the general public. The FGRR gears up every year for the L.A. County Fair, its primary show. In December various members run their Christmas trains. The garden railroad uses G Scale trains.
Barretts Sales and Racing
Also on the grounds is Barretts Sales and Racing (formerly known as Fairplex Park), a horse racing facility with a 5/8 mile racetrack and a grandstand seating 10,000. Barretts provides equine training facilities, horse show facilities, and the Barretts Equine Limited horse auction complex. The facility can also be used to host music events accommodating up to 30,000 patrons. Barretts and the Los Angeles County Fair Association reached an agreement in February of 2013 for naming rights, and the race meet is referred to as the "Barretts Race Meet at Fairplex."
Fairplex is home to a dragstrip known as the Auto Club Raceway at Pomona which hosts both the opening and closing rounds of the NHRA drag racing series. Fairplex is also the location of the Wally Parks NHRA Motor Sports Museum, presented by the Automobile Club of Southern California.
In addition, Fairplex is the site of the Millard Sheets Center for the Arts at Fairplex, a year-round education and exhibit space affiliated with The Smithsonian Institution. The center is located in the historic Fine Arts building, a 12,000-square-foot (1,100 m2) facility designed by architect Claud Beelman and erected by the WPA in 1937. In 1994 the building was renamed in honor of artist Millard Sheets, a Pomona native who was the director of the county fair's art programs from 1930 to 1956.
Pomona Assembly Center
During World War II, the Los Angeles County Fairgrounds was the site of one of several temporary detention camps (also known as "assembly centers") located throughout the West, the first phase of the mass incarceration of 97,785 Californians of Japanese ancestry during the war. Pursuant to Executive Order 9066, signed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt on February 19, 1942, fifteen makeshift detention facilities were constructed at various California racetracks, fairgrounds and labor camps. These facilities confined Japanese Americans until more permanent "relocation centers," such as those as Manzanar and Tule Lake in California, could be built in isolated areas of the country. Beginning on March 30, 1942, all native-born Americans and long-time legal residents of Japanese ancestry living in California were ordered to surrender themselves for detention.
Construction on the Pomona Assembly Center began on March 21, 1942, and the camp officially opened on May 7, 1942, consisting of 309 barracks, 8 mess halls and 36 shower and latrine facilities. The first group of 72 Japanese Americans arrived on May 9, and by May 15 the site was operating near capacity, with 4,270 people. Pomona reached a peak population of 5,434 before closing on August 24, 1942. Most residents were transferred to Heart Mountain in Wyoming. The site remained in use for the duration of the war, first housing U.S. troops, and then German and Italian prisoners of war. Today, the site serves as the Fairplex parking lot. There is no plaque or other marker to recognize the former "assembly center."
It is located at 1101 W. McKinley Ave., Pomona, California 91768, approximately 30 miles (48 km) east of downtown Los Angeles and 10 miles (16 km) west of Ontario International Airport, and two blocks north of the San Bernardino Freeway (I-10). The Fairplex is accessible from Fairplex Dr., White Ave. or Garey Ave. freeway exits.
- The rodeo scenes in Pee-wee's Big Adventure were shot at the Fairplex in 1985.
- "Barretts and Fairplex Park Combine". bloodhorse.com. February 26, 2013. Retrieved February 26, 2013.
- Linke, Konrad. "Pomona (detention facility)" Densho Encyclopedia (accessed 18 Jun 2014).
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