Over the Hill

Mid-State fairgoers used to spend weeks in line to buy top show tickets

Phil Dirkx
Phil Dirkx jjohnston@thetribunenews.com

California Mid-State fairgoers once had to spend weeks in line if they wanted to buy tickets for entertainment acts on the first day they were sold. Now fairgoers can buy the tickets on the Internet just seconds after they’re made available. And if it’s a really popular attraction you better act fast before it sells out.

On June 23 all 14,875 tickets for the Garth Brooks show sold out online in less than 30 seconds. So a second Garth Brooks show was added to the fair, and on June 29 it also sold out in seconds.

The practice of booking big-name acts for the Mid-State Fair began in 1969 when then-fair-manager Maynard Potter booked country-music star Buck Owens, who had a ranch near Templeton.

From then on the fair featured big-name shows. People lined up each year for days and then weeks waiting for the tickets to go on sale. Groups of friends formed to take turns preserving each other’s places in line. People also marked their places with chairs and other furniture.

One year I reported seeing “about 100 partially-occupied lawn chairs and lounges interspersed with sleeping bags, stacks of firewood and sacks of dog food.” People in line assured me they were buying the tickets only for themselves, friends and family, not to resell.

In 1988 I reported seeing “55 empty chairs and chaise lounges, one wooden box and one inverted bucket” marking people’s places in line. Campers and motor homes were parked in the fair parking lot.

That was also the year when the fair finally imposed some rules. It posted notices saying ticket buyers would no longer be allowed to camp in the fair parking lot, and ticket buyers could not line up more than 48 hours before the tickets went on sale.

Paso Robles Police Chief John Nelson took responsibility for the new rules. He had seen the potential for trouble in the unregulated lining-up. He brought that potential to the fair’s attention. The new rules were also OK with one camper’s husband. He said his wife had camped there 22 days that year and this was her seventh year. He said, “I can get reacquainted with her.”

And now she and you can buy your fair show tickets online, almost instantly and without any human interaction. But what fun is that?

Phil Dirkx's column is special to The Tribune. He has lived in Paso Robles for more than five decades, and his column appears here every other week. Reach Dirkx at 238-2372 or phild2008@sbcglobal.net.

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