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Thursday, Jan 26, 2023
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Del Mar Fairgrounds Launches Drive-in Concert Series

After postponing the 2020 San Diego County Fair in April and cancelling most of its 300-plus planned events for the year, the Del Mar Fairgrounds has pivoted to innovative ventures in order to generate revenue.

This year it stored approximately 4,000 rental cars for Enterprise Holdings and hosted a drive-in and pick-up food and beverage program called Fair Food Fix, among other endeavors.

Now, the 370-acre fairgrounds is adding something new.

Actively Booking

Produced by Ventura-based CBF Productions LLC, Concerts in Your Car is a drive-in music festival series and the Del Mar Fairgrounds’ latest effort. It kicked off in July at the Ventura County Fairgrounds and, as of late September, will take place concurrently at the Del Mar Fairgrounds through early January.

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Jennifer Hellman, marketing director at the 22nd District Agricultural Association, which operates the fairgrounds, said the organization is actively booking four to six events per week. During its first week, the new program hosted six events and drew about 10,000 visitors, according to CBF Productions.

“Entertainment and recreation are a big part of our mission and we really missed the energy and community comradery the annual San Diego County Fair brings to the grounds each summer,” said Hellman. “When looking at opportunities to bring fun back to San Diegans in a safe, social distanced way, our ample outdoor space made us a natural fit for drive-in and drive-thru events.”

Two to Three Concerts Per Week

So far, the fairgrounds has booked two to three concerts per week as well as two to three movies a week. Most events take place Wednesdays through Sundays at the fairgrounds’ west parking lot, between 5 p.m. and 10 p.m. Guests can order snacks, dinner and drinks from on-site concessionaires through a mobile app.

Vincenzo Giammanco, founder and CEO of CBF Productions, said the location holds up to 700 cars per concert, with each vehicle carrying up to four people. The cost ranges from $29 for drive-in movies and between $99 and $249 per car for drive-in concerts, depending on the magnitude of the performer, he said.

On the COVID-19-related front, both CBF Productions and the Del Mar Fairgrounds have made sure to comply with public health orders, following drive-in theater social distancing protocols.

“We’re also sensitive to neighbors,” said Hellman, “following noise ordinances and minimizing the audible sound from the stage by transmitting the music feed through FM radio.”

360 Degrees

CBF Productions is a full-scale production company. The initials stand for California Beer Festival (CBF put the event together for 10 years before expanding). The business provides the large stage, said Giammanco, which is placed in the center of the venue. Cars can park 360 degrees around the stage, and four LED screens face four directions. No matter where the performer is, concert goers can see them, he said.

Inspired by the success of the series at Ventura Fairgrounds, where CBF has hosted 70 events since June, Giammanco said CBF reached out to the Del Mar Fairgrounds about partnering. The impetus was to contract the Concerts in Your Car series with various venues. This way, it gives artists an incentive to perform multiple concerts back-to-back.

“They were shut down,” Giammanco said of the Del Mar Fairgrounds. “They were hosting no events, so, it seemed like the perfect fit.”

The Del Mar Fairgrounds was the right venue for CBF’s expansion plan, said Hellman, adding that CBF Productions gets paid through ticket sales and a portion of food and beverage sales. The Del Mar Fairgrounds charges CBF a rental fee.

Mainly Mozart

Before teaming up with CBF, the Del Mar Fairgrounds had already hosted a drive-in concert. The first drive-in event took place in July and was produced by Mainly Mozart, the San Diego-based orchestra.

Hellman is inspired.

She hopes this Concerts in Your Car series goes well enough that another concert series can commence once the first one wraps up.

“San Diegans love live music and theater, and the public in general has just really been missing getting out of the house for fun,” she said. “The ability to control the volume and have a guaranteed comfortable seat was a real plus, and you could still feel the energy of the performance and the fans as people tailgate dance — and honk — in appreciation.”

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