Playing Fair

By Alex Zaragoza
B?ack in the late 1940s, visitors to the San Diego County Fair were encouraged to be très gay for the day. A large sign hanging over the entrance to the midway proudly proclaimed it, "The Gay Way."

Obviously, back then, the term "gay" meant something a bit different from what it does now. However, it's still possible to enjoy jerry-rigged thrill rides, grease-laden goodies and pungent farm creatures "the gay way" at this year's San Diego County Fair, coming to the Del Mar Fairgrounds June 10 to July 4.

Linda Zweig, who heads up media relations for the fairgrounds, says the annual event has something for everyone, and that more than includes the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community.

"All of our entertainment is gay friendly," Zweig says. "There's nothing anti-gay here, nothing that would turn them away."

This year's entertainment lineup includes lesbian rocker Melissa Etheridge , who hits the grandstand stage on June 18. Joan Jett (who used to date Carmen Electra) and her band, the Blackhearts, will follow a performance by an ABBA tribute band on June 30.

That's got LGBT Weekly columnist, human rights activist and drag personality, Empress Nicole Murray-Ramirez, chomping at the bit.

"When they have ABBA, you know it is gonna get crazy!" she says. "Gays love ABBA! We'll be out there with our boas on like dancing machines."

Though the fair is no Paris, Milan or even National City, Murray-Ramirez says she relishes the people-watching.

"You can see the La Jolla look, the trailer park look and the MTV look all there," she says. "Joan Rivers would have a field day!"

It may not be the place for fine cuisine, but gays and straights alike can definitely grub out on the fair's fried delights. Murray-Ramirez says she loves "wrapping her lips around the juicy hot dogs" and corn on the cob, which has earned her the nickname "pig in a wig." Food critic and San Diego LGBT Pride festival spokesman Frank Sabatini Jr. says he doesn't typically favor greasy eats, but admits he's waiting with bated breath to watch people gorge on the fair's newest food experiment, deep fried Kool-Aid.

While Murray-Ramirez and Sabatini both agree that the event seems to welcome the LGBT community with open arms, Murray-Ramirez believes organizers should revive the "Gay Way" sign and theme-pronto.

"Gay Way speaks to a way of happiness," she says. "The LGBT community is known for our style and our camp and our sense of humor. If they renamed it 'The Queen's Way'-now that'd be awesome."
sdfair.com

Entertainment lineup
6/10: Pat Benatar/Neil Giraldo
6/11: Bruno Mars/Janelle Monáe
6/14: A Flock of Seagulls
6/15: "Weird Al" Yankovic
6/16: Randy Travis
6/17: Switchfoot
6/18: Melissa Etheridge
6/23: Willie Nelson; BellyUp Music Festival
6/25: Who's Bad (Michael Jackson tribute)
6/29: The Beach Boys
6/30: Arrival (ABBA tribute); Joan Jett & the Blackhearts
7/2: Grand Funk Railroad
7/4: REO Speedwagon

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