Press Releases

Don Diego Helps Vista High Students Pursue Goals

September 25, 2018

Del Mar, CA… The Don Diego Scholarship Foundation believes future leaders are worth a million! To date, we’ve awarded nearly one million dollars in college scholarships to outstanding students throughout the San Diego area who have excelled in academics, given back to their community and participated in the San Diego County Fair and/or other activities associated with the Del Mar Fairgrounds.

Qualifying high school seniors may have participated in an organization such as FFA or 4-H; showing or auctioning animals at the Fair. Students also are eligible if they have worked at the Fair or Fairgrounds, or if they’ve exhibited or performed at the Fair.

The highly competitive, annual Don Diego application process begins each January. Recipients are selected in the spring and feted at an annual Gala in the summer. Scholarships support students pursing a Bachelor’s Degree as well as an AA Degree or related vocational certificate.

Eligibility guidelines are online now. We encourage high school seniors to ascertain their eligibility and urge juniors to get involved in an activity that qualifies them for scholarships ranging from $1,000-$10,000. Be prepared – do it now!

Over the years, several Vista High students have earned Don Diego scholarships. These include 2015 recipient Amy Wehner and 2016’s top $10,000 winner, Yessica Vargas. Victoria Navarro, a 2018 Panther grad, is currently a first-generation college student on track to attain a degree in Psychology, supported by a Don Diego scholarship.


Don Diego Scholars are Propelled to Excel

August 30, 2018

Del Mar, CA… This fall, 30 outstanding students from around San Diego County are embarking on ambitious educational endeavors at highly regarded universities throughout the country, supported by Don Diego Scholarship Foundation scholarships ranging from $1,000 to $10,000. In 2018, the Foundation awarded a record $72,500 in college scholarships to students who participated in the San Diego County Fair and/or other activities associated with the Del Mar Fairgrounds.

Olivia Jarvis arrived at the University of Hawaii in Hilo in August eager to begin her Marine Science studies — only to be greeted by Hurricane Lane. Buoyant despite days of non-stop rain, delayed classes and confinement to her dorm, Olivia has joined the cross country team and is ready to have a “Hilo” of a great experience at college.

Top $10,000 Scholar Gigi Manasan was equally undeterred from pursuing her Math major at Creighton University in Nebraska despite being sidelined in the hospital for the first few days by a health issue. Having dealt with serious chronic conditions throughout her young life, Gigi is moving forward with her usual aplomb, including fulfilling the Crieighton tradition of touching Billy the Bluejay’s beak.

Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, where many Don Diego scholarship recipients have matriculated, welcomes Hailey Baldwin, Tori Pedersen and Megan Clodfelter. Sister school Cal Poly Pomona is the happy home for Elizabeth Melott and Hiram Olivarria.

Some 2018 Scholars are attending local schools such as Miramar Community College, Palomar College, San Diego State and San Bernardino State. Others are venturing to UC campuses and farther afield.

Marilyn Long jumped into the swim of things at Kansas State University; joining a sorority and diving into a rigorous curriculum that will culminate […]

SDG&E Donates $5,000 To Don Diego’s Bus Program

July 29, 2018

Del Mar, CA… The Don Diego Scholarship Foundation has received a generous $5,000 SDG&E Environmental Champions Grant earmarked for the Foundation’s Plant*Grow*Eat (PGE) Bus Transportation Program that enables elementary students from Title I schools to bring their home-grown produce to the annual San Diego County Fair.

Don Diego Executive Director Chana Mannen states, “We are so pleased to be a multi-year recipient of this highly competitive SDG&E grant. By funding buses for San Diego County schools that otherwise could not transport students, the grant enables thousands of eager young children to learn about agriculture and nutrition in a fun, hands-on way. Kids grow their edible plants, bring them to the Fair for judging, then visit agriculture-related exhibits, pet animals, and, for some, enjoy their first glimpse of the ocean. It’s a memorable experience for them, and for all of us involved.”

In announcing the grant’s approval, SDG&E Community Relations Manager Morgan Justice Black told Don Diego, “We believe in the great work that you do: educating the next generation of environmental stewards and integrating climate science into your efforts. We look forward to another year of partnership!”

During the 2018 Fair, Morgan Justice Black and SDG&E Public Affairs Manager Addie Woodard met with some of the many students whose buses they sponsored. They reported, “We enjoy seeing our money in action. Our donation is very well-spent. It’s so cool to know that children are learning where their food comes from.”

SDG&E’s Environmental Championship Initiative supports 501(c)3 non-profit organizations whose programs work to improve our local environment in San Diego County and southern Orange County. For more information, visit

Don Diego offers Plant*Grow*Eat donors many perks, including publicity, an […]

Your Free Days at the Races Start Here!

July 11, 2018

Del Mar, CA… Your best bet for a winning season at the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club horse races starts with a Don Diego Amigo Club membership.

For just $99 ($150 for two memberships), the Amigo Club provides free admission to every day of the summer (opening day: July 18th) and fall racemeets, every day of the 2019 San Diego County Fair plus four single-day passes to Surfside Raceplace and one single admission to The Scream Zone and Pelly’s Miniature Golf.

This $500 retail value membership offers one full year of Del Mar Fairgrounds fun, with activation beginning on your day of purchase at

The world-famous Del Mar track has showcased iconic horses such as Zenyatta and California Chrome. On certain racedays, it rocks out as a destination venue for free concerts and other entertainment attractions included with admission.

Visitors entering the gates can discover the Don Diego Fountain sporting hundreds of Legacy Bricks commemorating winning bets at the track, memorable moments at the Fair, and fun family times at the Fairgrounds. These customized bricks can be purchased on the Don Diego website for $150.

Both Amigo Club and Legacy Brick proceeds benefit the Foundation’s ongoing educational programs. Since its inception in 1986, the Foundation has awarded nearly one million dollars in college scholarships and agriculture education grants.

“Lettuce” Have Edible Fun at the Fair!

June 26, 2018

Del Mar, CA… Thirty minutes before the gates to the San Diego County Fair open to the public on Plant*Grow*Eat (PGE) days, busloads of fresh produce-laden elementary students hop eagerly onto the infield Farm where enthusiastic volunteers judge their lovingly grown-from-seed lettuce, tomatoes, radishes, nasturtiums, beets and other edibles. Not every young farmer wins first place, but everyone receives a ribbon, warm accolades for their achievement and a hearty smile from the judges before they set off to pet animals, learn more about agriculture and nutrition from the ground up and, for some children, enjoy their first glimpse of the ocean.

Waiting to greet students on June 22, 2018 were people from organizations who sponsored buses from San Diego area Title I schools through Don Diego Scholarship Foundation’s PGE Bus Transportation Program. The program funds buses for schools that could otherwise not afford to transport students to the Fair. Some sponsors, such as Teresa Palzkill, Immediate Past President of Les Dames de Escoffier, served as judges. Others were on-site to enjoy the fruits of their donations as seen in the eyes of happy children proud of their crops.

Ira Sharp, Grants Committee Chairman of the Del Mar Foundation, which has donated to the program for two consecutive years, said, “It’s such a kick to see the kids’ faces light up, even if their plant never grew beyond a little stem. Some of these children have never been honored before. Here, the judges take the time to talk to them and praise them. I love checking out their veggies and seeing the pure joy.”

The Del Mar Kiwanis contingent of Steve Gardella, Relda Colvin and Chuck Phillips were as […]

Don Diego’s Gala-Licious Dinner & Concert was a Sweet Success!

June 4, 2018

Del Mar, CA… Billed as “A Night of Sweet Treats Under the Stars,” Don Diego Scholarship Foundation’s June 7, 2018 Dinner and Concert Gala at the “How Sweet It Is” 2018 San Diego County Fair did not disappoint. From the minute Gala-goers entered the whimsical Fair entrance, then walked into the candy land-decorated Infield Pavilion devoted exclusively to them, met and mingled with scholarship recipients, enjoyed gourmet small plates, and ended the night with VIP Grandstand seating at the Kansas concert, they were treated to an evening beyond compare.

Executive Director Chana Mannen relates, “The genuine stars of the night were our amazing 2018 Scholars, who together share $72,500 in college scholarships. Also in starring roles were Gala sponsors, guests and auction donors whose support enables these 30 ambitious students from throughout the San Diego area to matriculate at highly regarded colleges around the country in pursuit of their career goals.”

Displaying a maturity reflecting their selection in a highly competitive year, students made it a point to find and thank individual Board members for their generosity.

In a brief program, Vice Chairman and Gala emcee Karen Tanz introduced the students, each of whom shared their college and major with the crowd. Spontaneous applause rose up as the students recited their ambitions to become veterinarians, biochemists, agriculture educators and other professionals in diverse fields.

Board member and exuberant auctioneer Frederick Schenk ramped up the bidding for iconic items and opportunities such as a Blue Ribbon Lamb and a Del Mar Thoroughbred Club horseracing Turf Club membership for two.

The substantial amount of money raised at the Gala will help fund scholarships for future leaders of our community, Mannen says. “Our […]

Don Diego’s Top Scholar, Angelina Manasan, is “Positively” the Best

June 4, 2018

Del Mar, CA… Omaha-based Creighton University, the prestigious destination for Don Diego Scholarship Foundation’s top 2018 recipient, Angelina (Gigi) Manasan of San Diego, says it offers a highly ranked education “where students learn to become leaders through service to others.” That makes it the ideal school for Angelina, who has epitomized leading through service – and adversity – throughout her young life.

Faced with multiple, daunting, health conditions starting as an infant, Gigi has turned obstacles into opportunities to help others – especially medically challenged children – and she’s done it with a huge smile on her face, a lei around her neck and positivity in her heart. She established her scholarship eligibility by performing hula with Na Pua Ilima O’Kehaulani at the San Diego County Fair for more than ten years. She was unanimously chosen to receive the top $5,000 Exhibitor/Participant Scholarship plus the coveted $5,000 Spanjian Family Scholarship through her interview with the Don Diego selection committee.

Chairman Roxana Foxx says that the committee members were impressed and moved by Gigi’s personal story, her accomplishments, her selfless desire to give back and her incredible resilience. She notes, “Gigi’s eclectic array of academic, extracurricular, work and volunteer achievements makes one ponder how this remarkable young woman can fit so many activities into her life and do everything so well while battling serious chronic conditions. She is simply awe-inspiring.”

Gigi is as humble as she is extraordinary. As a stellar Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) student who incorporates dancing, singing and theatre into her STEM + Arts = STEAM repertoire, Gigi was involved with Girls Who Code, Robotics and other high-tech efforts at Academy of Our Lady of Peace, where she earned a 4.2 GPA […]

Bid On Fair Collectibles and Help Send Students to College – Don Diego’s Online Autograph Auction Runs Through July 4, 2018

June 1, 2018

Del Mar, CA… It’s time to get your bid on! Don Diego Scholarship Foundation’s Online Auction of autographed guitars and other signed collectibles has opened at Bidding closes at midnight on July 4, 2018.

Among the iconic items offered are guitars autographed by the 2016 San Diego County Fair Grandstand performers and by popular groups and individuals. Each item offers a buy-it-now option.

Auction proceeds benefit the Foundation’s educational programs, so when you win the bid of a guitar signed by a legendary musician, your donation is music to the ears of future leaders of our community. In 2018, 30 outstanding students throughout the San Diego area are sharing $72,500 in college scholarships to pursue their career goals.

The Don Diego Scholarship Foundation was named for Don Diego, AKA Tom Hernandez, who served as the Fair’s welcoming goodwill ambassador from 1947-1984. To date since its inception in 1986, the Foundation has awarded approximately $862,000 in scholarships to 204 students and in agriculture education grants. More information is at and

$72,500 in Don Diego Scholarships Will Propel 30 Exceptional San Diego Area Students to Notable Colleges Around the U.S.

May 23, 2018

Del Mar, CA… Don Diego Scholarship Foundation is elated to announce that it has awarded a record $72,500 in college scholarships to 30 exceptional students who reside throughout the San Diego area and have participated in the San Diego County Fair and/or other activities associated with the Del Mar Fairgrounds.

The students are dazzling in their diversity of talents and united by their desire to make the world a better place. They will be feted at Don Diego’s Dinner and Kansas Concert Gala at the Fair on June 7, 2018 (tickets are still available) before heading to prestigious UC and Cal State campuses; highly regarded universities in Idaho, Kansas, Colorado, Wyoming, Hawaii and elsewhere; and even legendary Notre Dame.

Executive Director Chana Mannen, who has overseen the scholarship process since the Foundation’s inception in 1986, reports, “This year’s crop is amazing. We received the most applications ever. Our selection committee had the challenging task of evaluating qualifications and interviewing finalists; all outstanding and deserving. The cream of the crop rose to the top and we are proud to present our Class of 2018.”

Scholarships at multiple levels were awarded in the categories of 4-H, FFA, Employee, Exhibitor/Participant, Vocational Education and Junior Livestock Auction participant.

The coveted $5,000 Spanjian Family Scholarship was bestowed upon the most outstanding recipient: Angelina (“Gigi”) Manasan, who also received the top $5,000 Exhibitor/Participant scholarship. Gigi, who lives in San Diego and graduates from the Academy of Our Lady of Peace, will use her $10,000 award to attend Creighton University in Nebraska, where she will major in Mathematics.

Don Diego Chairman Roxana Foxx notes, “Gigi’s eclectic array of academic, extracurricular, work and volunteer achievements makes one ponder […]

Sweet Treats Await Don Diego Gala-goers June 7th At The Fair

April 16, 2018

Del Mar, CA… The Del Mar Fairgrounds’ Infield Pavilion will be transformed into a candy land of delight for one magical evening on June 7, 2018 for the exclusive Don Diego Gala at the “How Sweet It Is!” San Diego County Fair.

Individual tickets at are $275, with a $25-per-ticket discount if purchased by May 21, 2018. Sponsorship opportunities are still available.

A colorful cornucopia of sweet treats awaits guests, beginning with all day preferred parking, hosted cocktails starting at 4:30 pm, and a mouth-watering gourmet dinner of grazing and grilling small plate selections plus champagne and delectable desserts.
Guests will mingle with a Who’s Who of San Diego society and meet the Class of 2018 Don Diego college scholarship recipients. The students will be presented in a brief program before the Gala culminates in VIP stagefront seating in the Corona Grandstand for the performance of the iconic classic rock band, Kansas.

A live auction will feature a case of Gold Medal wines, Blue Ribbon lamb, Grandstand stars-autographed guitars, other unique items and once-in-a-lifetime surprise opportunities. Elite sweet swag will make the evening memorable and complete.

Executive Director Chana Mannen states, “The annual Don Diego Gala celebrates our scholars and recognizes generous donors who enable these idealistic students to pursue their college and career goals. The 2018 Gala is already in hot demand, so we encourage people to buy tickets now before the event sells out.”

The Don Diego Scholarship Foundation was named for Don Diego, AKA Tom Hernandez, who served as the Fair’s welcoming goodwill ambassador from 1947-1984. To date since its inception in 1986, the Foundation has awarded approximately $862,000 in scholarships to 204 students and […]