Community Feature

Out at the Fair: A Chat With William Zakrajshek

By Cesar A. Reyes

The San Diego County Fair is taking place from June 12 to July 7, and everyone is excited for Out at the Fair on Saturday June 22nd.  A day to turn the fair Gay and Festive. We sat down with William Zakrajshek to talk about the events history and how it has evolved and extended to other County Fairs and what folks can look forward to at this year’s festivities up in Del Mar. 

Please tell us about yourself.

My name is William Zakrajshek but most people in San Diego know me as DJ Will Z. I moved to San Diego, CA from South Dakota in the Spring of 2006 after being hit by a train in the Summer of 2005, I quickly realized life is too short to not live your dreams so packed up life and moved to the west coast. Soon after arriving in San Diego, I found a job as a barback at Numbers & The Flame in Hillcrest where I celebrated my first Pride event in July 2006. It was so life changing to be free, who you want and not feel like the world is judging you. After a year of working in nightlife DJ Nikno asked me if I would be interested in learning how to DJ and be his opener. Never thinking this career path would be in my future I said sure and soon after DJ Will Z was born. 

This career path I was truly grateful for because it gave me the opportunity to meet a       ton of amazing people, DJ Minneapolis Pride, in San Jose, Long Beach and was a resident DJ for Rich’s plus Flicks for years. There is nothing like the feeling of playing some hot new hip hop song and dancing with a crowd of people because that energy I haven’t been able to find again since the pandemic. 

In June 2021, OutAt Inc was born which gave ownership of Out at the Fair® to the co-founders of the festival and took it off my production company. This caught the attention of Techstars Austin, TX which accepted us into their business incubator to accelerate our business and I moved to Austin in 2022 for 3 months to complete the program. This experience was life changing, allowed us to join the Gaingles network, get a CEO coach and really grow into the new role in front of me. Since then, we have really been able to figure out how to scale Out at the Fair®, take on new locations, and really give our community the family-friendly experience they crave. In January 2024, OutAt Inc was the first LGBTQ+ business at the Western Fair-Trade Show in 101+ years and we brought Hillcrest legend Landa Plenty with us! You can currently find Out at the Fair® in Oregon, California and New Mexico with even more coming in 2025. 

Tell us about Out at the Fair (a little bit of history)?

Out at the Fair® was started at the San Diego County Fair in 2011 as an ‘Unofficial Gay Days’ with a simple Facebook check in with a group of friends. Not really thinking much about it the following year I got a message from a lady asking if it would return in 2012. We made a Facebook event for 2012 and that is when the San Diego County Fair found the event, welcomed us at the gate with pins and took our first group photo. In 2013, Out at the Fair® was born by becoming an official Fair event and I started to attend Fair planning meetings. 

Soon after the success of Out at the Fair® – San Diego County Fair in 2013 our festival grew to the CA State Fair and the NM State Fair. By 2019, Out at the Fair® was in 2 states, 7 locations and was getting ready for a massive 2020 season until it all was canceled. The pandemic might have been very tough to get through as an event/festival business but with determination by the fall of 2021 we were able to join our community again at a safe distance at the NM State Fair and it was a huge success. Since then, we have been able to grow into 11 locations in 3 states with no sign of a slowdown of growth. Our goal is to see an OATF® at every state & county fair because our community deserves to be celebrated, given a voice, and given opportunities in communities where sometimes Pride celebrations aren’t always found. 

What are you most excited about for this years Out at the Fair?

I am REALLY excited to see my San Diego LGBTQ+ family, I don’t make it down to Hillcrest nor San Diego as much as I would like to anymore due to work & travel. So, it’s awesome to know at least 1 time a year I can see all these familiar faces.

What can folks attending look forward?

This year we have a wide variety of entertainment including the 1st LGBTQ+ Mariachi Band called Mariachi Arco-Iris de Los Angeles, OATF® Storytime w/ Landa Plenty, our fabulous Glam Show with amazing local Kings/Queens and some epic community entertainment. 

The importance of event like Out at the Fair as part of the San Diego Fair?

Events like Out at the Fair® are very important because they give a platform that hasn’t always been available to our community since the Fair industry is known to be so conservative. It also shows the LGBTQ+ culture to residents that wouldn’t necessarily attend a Pride event but in a family-friendly way the Fairgrounds can be proud of. We have had LGBTQ+ youth come up with our OATF® booth to grab a flag and quickly stuff them in their backpacks. We asked why? They let us know, “We are here with our family, they don’t know it’s Out at the Fair® day and don’t approve of us so thank you for being here.” 

To show people they are welcome, safe, and can be themselves is a rewarding feeling none of us knew would come with doing an event like this. 

How can people attend?

Our 12th annual Out at the Fair® – San Diego County Fair is a free event and included in your general admission ticket to the Fair. They can be found on our website at today!