The Arizona State Fair board unanimously voted on Thursday to temporarily move the 2021 Arizona State Fair to Gila River’s Wild Horse Pass, which is located near Interstate 10 and Wild Horse Pass Blvd., just south of Ahwatukee.
“This temporary location gives us the ability to plan and ensure the fair goes on no matter what,” Jonathan Lines, chairman of the State Fair Board, said in a press release. “By working with the Gila River Indian Community on this option, we’ve been able to give early certainty to vendors we needed to secure to make this event a success, while also ensuring this event is safe for all Arizonans.”
The 2020 Arizona State Fair was canceled due to COVID-19 concerns. Fair officials were forced to come up with other ways to generate revenue, like offering drive-through fair food in the fall and over the holidays, and holding “car concerts” at the fairgrounds, featuring big acts like the Beach Boys.
Concerns for the return of the 2021 State Fair event have been focused on safety. Wild Horse Pass is “larger than the size of the State Fairgrounds in Phoenix, allowing for appropriate social distancing and other public health mitigation measures” and “allows the fair grounds to continue to be available for public health needs in an underserved area of our community.”
The Gila River Indian Community sent a letter to the fair’s board saying the location “has the space and the know how to host and deliver a meaningful, safe and appropriately scaled outdoor event.”
Fair board members toured the Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park, near Interstate 10 and Wild Horse Pass Boulevard, before going into executive session to vote.
“Safety has been our number one priority during the pandemic and we are prepared to carry on this legacy for all of Arizona in the most supportive way possible,” Gila River Indian Community Governor Stephen Roe Lewis said in the release. “WHPDA is more than capable to deliver a memorable State Fair experience and we welcome Arizonans to come and enjoy themselves in our Community.”
The Arizona State Fair has been around for 136 years. In 2019, attendance hit 1,262,868, the highest in more than a decade. The current location of the fair at 19th Avenue and McDowell Road is home to Veterans Memorial Coliseum, which opened more than 50 years ago and has been visited by the likes of Elvis, Pope John Paul II, President Obama, and Cher. The so-called “Madhouse on McDowell” was also the former home of the Phoenix Suns.
“This gracious offer by the Gila River Indian Community and today’s decision by the Arizona State Fair Board ensures that another year won’t pass without a State Fair,” Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey said in the release, adding the event is a beloved annual tradition for countless Arizona families.
It’s not clear whether officials are considering a temporary or a permanent move for the fair. Tentative dates for the 2021 State Fair are Oct. 7 through Oct. 31.