Behind The Scenes At The Del Mar Fair

Carmel Valley San Diego Community | Bill Keane | Little Boy at the Del Mar FairOK, OK, technically it’s the San Diego County Fair, but it’s certainly right up the crowded freeway from Carmel Valley!  All of us at Keane Studios have been taking turns being in our booth in the Exhibit Hall, so I thought we’d share some insights about what it’s like to be behind the scenes.  We had been in the Fair over 20 years ago, so it was great to get back into the swing … succumbing to the occasional cinnamon roll, avoiding the bacon-wrapped turkey legs, etc.

Seriously, it’s the people who have been the most pleasant surprise at the Fair.  In total, there are 17,000 people who in some way help put on the Fair – vendors, exhibitors like us, security, carnies, food suppliers, you name it.  In a group that is the equivalent of about a third the population of Carmel Valley, you’d think there would be some grumps and some cynics.  Not so!  From the cheery traffic director at the base of the Solana gate to the workers at the secret Viv’s Café (sorry, can’t tell you the location!), where Fair staff can find an oasis from the bustle and grab a good meal at a small price, the Fair staff have been extraordinarily friendly.

Carmel Valley San Diego Community | Bill Keane | Del Mar FairIn our booth neighborhood, friendships amongst vendors have been formed over the years, and we’ve been welcomed as part of a group that starts forming at 8:00 in the morning, long before the Fair opens, to tidy up the booths, restock supplies, and check in with the helpful Fair staff.

The most gratifying for me, as a 20 year resident of Carmel Valley, and a photographer who has seen generations of San Diegans grow, has been the visits by families who express how very important their portraits have been to them as families grow.

The very high point? A visit from a couple whose wedding I had photographed 37 years ago that day!
Carmel Valley San Diego Community | Bill Keane | Keane StudiosBill started photographing weddings from his dorm room at the Claremont colleges back when Nixon was president and film was the only way to record images.  A great deal has changed since 1968, but his fascination with photography, and ultimately the stories of the people he has photographed, has made every day of his 40+ years as a portrait photographer, as interesting as the first.  Bill considers himself very fortunate to be involved in what I love doing every day.

As I was growing up, my parents always made portrait photography part of our lives, as it had been when they were growing up.  As my own children grew, I developed a deeper appreciation of how important those photographs had become in my life.  There was the picture of my uncle and the horse drawn delivery wagon he drove for my grandfather’s business on the unpaved streets of Berkeley; the portrait of my other grandfather smoking a pipe as he fished on the bank near the family home in Morris, Illinois; there was my mom as a six year old child model in Chicago; and then there were my own baby pictures, and memories of family vacations.  Because my parents passed away when I was in my 20′s, these memories of my family have become my own link to the past, and a way my family now can connect with their history.  Of course, it’s also kind of fun to remember that my hair used to be dark!


Carmel Valley San Diego Community | RIDE Cyclery Encinitas

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