Press Releases

Del Mar’s Jill Coughlin Honored for 30 Years as San Diego County Fair’s Plant*Grow*Eat Coordinator

JUNE 26, 2019

Del Mar, CA … In 1989, Jill Coughlin enthusiastically dove into her new job as Plant*Grow*Eat Coordinator at the San Diego County Fair. She developed a curriculum that met science guidelines for elementary schools. Then, bearing soil, seeds, pots and instructions, she visited classrooms throughout San Diego County in advance of the Fair to show students how to plant and nurture their edible plants. Several weeks later, when the eager young farmers stepped off their school buses to scamper to the Infield Farm, proudly display their bounty to the judges, receive ribbons for their efforts and dash off to enjoy a memorable agriculture adventure, “Miss Jill” was there to welcome them.

Jill Coughlin was honored on June 23, 2019 by her Fair peers for 30 years of service and for growing the program to help the Fair provide agricultural education to the community. Flabbergasted by the heartfelt accolades, not to mention her festive cake decorated with real radishes, Coughlin revealed, “Over 331,000 children have participated in Plant*Grow*Eat. I have so many delightful memories!”

A longtime Del Mar resident, Coughlin has recruited dozens of volunteer judges from the Del Mar Garden Club and Village Garden Club of La Jolla. This community stalwart is a member of both as well as Del Mar-based Friends of the Powerhouse.

Retired Deputy Fairgrounds Manager Chana Mannen states, “Jill’s passion for agriculture, coupled with her love of children and her organizational skills, have made Plant*Grow*Eat a successful program that has grown in popularity and participation. Her work represents an enduring legacy of the Fair.”

More information about the program can be found at

Don Diego Donors Put Kids on the Road to Fair Fun

JUNE 25, 2019

Del Mar, CA … Summer started one day early at the San Diego County Fair’s June 20, 2019 Plant*Grow*Eat Day when hundreds of bright-eyed elementary students bearing their carefully nurtured edible plants descended from buses to the Infield Farm. Awaiting them were some of the many generous Don Diego Scholarship Foundation donors who sponsored buses so these enthusiastic young farmers could earn well-deserved ribbons and enjoy a memorable agriculture adventure at the Fair.

This year, the generosity of longtime and inaugural group and individual bus sponsors enabled Don Diego to provide 89 buses transporting 4,000+ students from Title 1 schools throughout San Diego County to the Fair on designated Plant*Grow*Eat days.

Multiple-year sponsors returning this year included the Del Mar Foundation, Del Mar Kiwanis, Les Dames de Escoffier, SDG&E and other organizations as well as individuals such as Brenda Larson who say they are passionate about the program.

Among the new sponsors were eight members of the Village Garden Club of La Jolla. Garden Club Member Margaret Anne Lozuk revealed, “As a San Marcos Unified School District teacher, I brought my classes here. I’ve also served as a Plant*Grow*Eat judge. That was really fun! When I learned of the bus sponsorship opportunity at a Village Garden Club of La Jolla meeting, I was happy to hear that the Club itself was a sponsor. I immediately resolved, ‘This is something I also want to do on my own as a way to give back.’ I’m so glad I sponsored a bus and I’m glad to be here with the kids.”

Don Diego Executive Director Chana Mannen, who created Plant*Grow*Eat decades ago when she served as Deputy Manager of the Fair, […]

Don Diego Gala at the Fair Sparkles with Surprises

JUNE 18, 2019

Del Mar, CA … The festive crowd attending Don Diego Scholarship Foundation’s June 15, 2019 Dinner and Smokey Robinson Concert at the San Diego County Fair enjoyed a shimmering evening replete with surprise auction items, a surprise donation opportunity and three surprise donors establishing inaugural Named Scholarships.

The Don Diego Class of 2019: Seated – Katelyn Challman, Jacqueline Kinch, Margaret (Sissy) Sugarman, Kasin Martin, Robert Carmichael, Evan Wright, Russell Sorbo. Standing – Helen Buchanan, Isai Soto, Hailey Bjerknes, Rachel Utter, Elizabeth Navarro, Megan Kelly, Miranda Medford, Elijah Martineau , Marisol Solas. Not pictured: Charlize Rice, Emilie Melnychuk, Johanna Jimenez, Kassidy Gray, Leah Gill, Nick LaRocco, Sol Kier

The whimsical décor of the Infield Pavilion provided a colorful backdrop for delectable dining, presentation of 2019 Scholars, and a lively auction featuring such unique opportunities as Del Mar Thoroughbred Club Turf Club membership, 50-yard-line tickets to an upcoming USC-Oregon football game and an adventure flight in the “Yellow Peril” two-seater piloted by Board member, Rear Admiral Ret. Russ Penniman.

To celebrate surpassing $1 million in total funds raised over the years, the Board unveiled a new Matching Named Scholarship opportunity, which will kickstart efforts to begin raising its second million to support future outstanding students pursuing ambitious college and career goals. A donation of $25,000 or more will be matched by the Foundation, thus doubling the value of the donor’s perpetual Named Scholarship.

When Board Member/Auctioneer Frederick Schenck announced a special Gala-Night-0nly two-for-one donation match, Board member Glenn Drown immediately stepped up to the challenge. To widespread applause, he enthusiastically pledged $25,000 to create a $75,000 Bill and Elizabeth Tulloch Family Scholarship in honor of his Ramona family’s longtime agricultural […]

Don Diego’s 23 Scholarship Recipients Are Eager to Make a Positive Difference

MAY 25, 2019

Del Mar, CA … The 23 graduating high school seniors from throughout San Diego are already vigorous leaders, successful entrepreneurs, and academic standouts poised to excel at universities around the country as they pursue scientific, environmental, healthcare, public service, and other careers that will beneficially impact their communities and the world.

Yes, Don Diego Scholarship Foundation’s Class of 2019 college scholarship recipients are going places, and Don Diego is delighted to help them arrive!

These 23 winners, who triumphed in a highly competitive year that saw nearly 100 qualified applicants, will share $66,000 in awards. They will be celebrated at Don Diego’s June 15, 2019 Dinner & Smokey Robinson Concert at the San Diego County Fair. Gala details and tickets are at

Scholarships in the categories of FFA, 4-H, Employee, Exhibitor/Participant, Junior Livestock Auction (JLA) and Vocational Education were offered to students who reside in the San Diego area and have participated in the Fair and/or other activities associated with the Del Mar Fairgrounds. The coveted Spanjian Family Scholarship is annually awarded to the single most outstanding applicant of all.

Russell Sorbo of Ramona captured the highest honors, winning the top $5,000 FFA Scholarship plus the $5,000 Spanjian. He will use the total $10,000 award to pursue Goat Dairy Science at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo on his way to becoming a veterinarian. Don Diego Chairman Roxana Foxx states, “The selection committee unanimously agreed to award the Spanjian to Russell. We were impressed with his academic and extracurricular qualifications, FFA leadership, multiple Fair-related awards and excellent recommendations.” One teacher praised Russell’s “compassion, industriousness, determination and leadership.” Russell notes, “The Fair has guided me to my career path while helping me gain leadership […]

Follow the Yellow Brick Road to Don Diego’s June 15 Gala at the Fair

April 16, 2019

Del Mar, CA … A festive celebration awaits guests at Don Diego Scholarship Foundation’s exclusive June 15, 2019 Gala at the San Diego County Fair. Tickets at are $275, with a $25 discount to $250 if purchased by June 3, 2019.

Gala-goers enjoy all-day preferred parking, hosted cocktails at 4:30 pm, a delectable farm-to-table small plates dinner and champagne dessert, all culminating in VIP Grandstand seating for legendary performer Smokey Robinson.

In keeping with the Fair’s “Wizard of Oz” theme, the Infield Pavilion will welcome guests to a shimmering emerald evening under the stars. The major stars will be Don Diego’s 2019 college scholarship recipients, who will mingle with San Diego’s finest, be presented, and help auction off unique items including a case of Gold Medal wines, Blue Ribbon lamb, and once-in-a-lifetime opportunities to be divulged at the event.

Don Diego Chairman Roxana Foxx states, “This year’s Gala is very special as we celebrate topping one million dollars in scholarship support to incredible students over the years. The event gives us an opportunity to thank our generous donors and to kick-start efforts to raise our second million. We have many surprises in store and encourage people to buy tickets before the event sells out.”

Don Diego Featured on KOCT’s March “Oceanside Spectrum”

March 2, 2019

Del Mar, CA … First up on KOCT’s March 2019 “Oceanside Spectrum” show is Don Diego Scholarship Foundation!

The lively feature, which airs throughout March on TV and on-demand at, highlights Don Diego’s 2019 scholarship program offering 28 college scholarships totaling $66,000 to students who reside in the San Diego area and have participated in the Fair or other activities associated with the Del Mar Fairgrounds.

Oceanside Spectrum host Kellie Davis interviews Don Diego Executive Director Chana Mannen and 2018 Employee category recipient Victoria Navarro. Victoria began her multiple-year Fairgrounds tenure at age 14 picking up trash at the Fair. She relates, “I learned a good work ethic, earned money and made many friends.” Victoria currently attends Palomar College on her way to majoring in Kinesiology at Vanguard University.

“Victoria exemplifies the high caliber of student Don Diego is pleased to support,” says Mannen. “We thank KOCT for showcasing our scholarship program and encourage college-bound students to check out guidelines and apply before the March 18, 2019 deadline at”

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 nearly $975,000 in scholarships to 232 students and in agriculture education grants. More information is at and

Help Kids Enjoy a Growing Adventure at the Fair!

February 20, 2019

Del Mar, CA … Plant the seeds for a lifetime appreciation of farm-fresh healthy nutrition by donating to Don Diego Scholarship Foundation’s Plant*Grow*Eat (PGE) transportation program. You’ll get free publicity, VIP parking and admission to the 2019 San Diego County Fair on “your” day plus the delight of sharing an exciting growth experience with eager elementary students.

To advance the Fair’s PGE agricultural education program, Don Diego sponsors buses that bring students from Title I schools to the Fair’s Infield Farm. They showcase their carefully nurtured produce, receive a ribbon for their efforts, then scamper off to explore farm exhibits and even pet an animal or two!

Whether they grow a fat, red radish as big as a tomato or a teeny, tiny tomato no larger than a radish, the children are justifiably proud of their efforts. Last year, Perkins Elementary second-grader Romeo confided, “I don’t like radishes when we get them from the store. But when I eat the one I grew, it tasted good!” Special Education student Kevin could not stop smiling when he won a blue ribbon. Showing his PGE savvy, Kevin reported, “I planted this. I grew this. And now, I will eat it!”

Bus sponsors have as much fun as the children whose agriculture adventure they make possible. In 2018, Del Mar Foundation’s Ira Sharp noted, “The judges take the time to praise each child. I love checking out their veggies and seeing the pure joy.”

SDG&E’s Morgan Justice-Black and Addie Woodard said, “Our donation is very well-spent. It’s so cool to know that children are learning where their food comes from.”

Don Diego Executive Director Chana Mannen, who as former Deputy Manager of the […]

Don Diego Offers $66,000 in College Scholarships to 28 Outstanding San Diego Area Students

January 14, 2019

Application Deadline is 3/18/19

The Don Diego Scholarship Foundation is offering $66,000 in 2019 college scholarships to 28 outstanding students who reside in the San Diego area and have participated in the San Diego County Fair and/or other activities associated with the Del Mar Fairgrounds.

Scholarships are offered in six categories. Individual awards range from $1,000 to $5,000. The deadline to apply is March 18, 2019. Eligibility details and applications are at For questions, contact

Finalist interviews will be held in April. Recipients will be honored at the Don Diego Dinner and Concert Gala taking place on June 15, 2019 at the San Diego County Fair. Each recipient will receive a personalized Legacy Brick installed at the Fairgrounds. They also will have an opportunity to reapply for a scholarship in subsequent years.

Scholarship Breakdown

  • Scholarships of $5,000, $2,500, $1,500 and $1,000 will be awarded in each of four categories: 4-H, FFA, Employee and Exhibitor/Participant.
  • One $5,000, one $2,500, one $1,500 and seven $1,000 scholarships will be awarded to participants in the Fair’s Junior Livestock Auction.
  • Two 2,500 Vocational Education scholarships will be awarded to students intending to pursue an AA/AS degree or certificate at a community college or accredited trade school.
  • The coveted $5,000 Spanjian Family Scholarship will be bestowed upon the most outstanding recipient.

According to Executive Director Chana Mannen, “Don Diego achieves an impressive milestone in 2019. With this year’s scholarships, our total monetary awards will top one million dollars! We thank our generous donors, who over the years have enabled us to support future leaders of our community. Our Board is ambitiously initiating new programs that will put us on the path to raising our second million.”

Don Diego Believes Future Leaders are Worth a Million

November 8, 2018

Del Mar, CA… The Don Diego Scholarship Foundation believes future leaders are worth a million! To date, the Foundation has 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 exhibited or performed at the Fair.

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

Eligibility guidelines are at
Achievements of Don Diego Scholars are at

Executive Director Chana Mannen states, “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. Past scholarships have propelled outstanding students to prestigious universities around the county.”

Some, such as 2014 top recipient Carolyn Kravitz, who graduated from Stanford this spring and is now pursuing a PhD at Yale, are ambitiously embarking on advanced degrees and exciting careers. A 2017 scholarship took Jessica Xu to MIT. She spent Summer 2018 in Singapore through a undergraduate research fellowship, in which she worked on streamlining a microfluidics method to analyze cancer cell clusters.

Mannen asks, “Where might a Don Diego scholarship take you?”

The Don Diego Scholarship Foundation was named for […]

Fall into Free Days at the Races

October 20, 2018

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

For just $99 ($150 for two), the Amigo Club provides free admission to each day of the November 9-December 2 fall racemeet, plus every day of the 2019 San Diego County Fair, every day of the 2019 summer racemeet, 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, which can be purchased on the Don Diego website for $150, make a memorable holiday gift.

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.