Wednesday, April 29, 2015

It's Almost Party Time!

The staff of the Orange County Fair and Event Center (Fairgrounds), headed by new CEO Kathy Kramer, held an Open House in the Administration Building on the Fairgrounds Tuesday night to tell the community about their plans for the upcoming 125th Orange County Fair this summer - operating for a month beginning July 17, 2015 - and to introduce the theme of this year's fair - One Big Party!

I apologize for the poor quality of the images this time.  I took my backup camera with a slow lens.  That, coupled with the light glaring across the screen, have made for some shoddy images.
The crowd of more than five dozen people paid close attention as Kramer spoke of their plans and the relationship the Fairgrounds has with the Costa Mesa Police Department, since noise, rowdiness and neighborhood parking issues are major concerns of nearby residents.  I noticed many community activists in the crowd, but most were residents of College Park and Mesa del Mar - the two residential areas closest to the Fairgrounds.  With the exception of the members of the CMPD present, I saw no elected or appointed city official, nor did I see any member of the city staff.

Captain Mark Manley spoke from the CMPD standpoint and introduced Lieutenant Vic Bakkila and Sergeant Bryan Wadkins, who will be the command staff in charge the CMPD interface with the Fair staff.
Dan Gaines, who heads up the Entertainment element of the Fair, spoke briefly about that subject.  We learned that they usually have about 80% of returning acts, but this year in the Hanger there will be 40% new acts.
Joan Hamel spoke about the events planned, as listed on this image.  As you can see, they include a new ice skating attraction, Fairenheit 32 and the ever popular Cattle Drive on August 8th.
Nick Buffa, who manages Safety and Security, ( I apologize for having no good photo of Nick, son of former Costa Mesa Mayor Peter Buffa) then spoke about the new Neighborhood Ambassador Program, which is designed to have eyes and ears in the two main communities around the Fairgrounds to help head off problems.  The folks will patrol in 2-person teams in GEM electric cars and be dressed in bright Orange uniform shirts.  They will have dedicated VOIP telephones with which they can report problems as they roam through the neighborhoods.  They will NOT be sworn officers - all police-related matters will be directed to the CMPD.
Sound guru Gary Hardesty spoke briefly about the efforts that will be made to contain and control the sound from the musical acts this year.  He told us that there will be two self-contained sound monitoring units placed in the community - one in College Park and one in Mesa del Mar - to provide valuable real-time information to help with this year's Fair and into the future.

Robin Wachner told us of the communication tools that will be used, as listed on this image.  She also gave us a link, HERE, which will take you to the page shown below for more information.
Then Kramer took questions from the audience and had her team available to answer them.  The concerns expressed covered the gamut - drunkenness, rowdiness, trash and unwelcome parking in the neighborhoods.  To those kinds of questions Manley and Wadkins advised us that the CMPD will be properly staffed to handle those issues.  Resident Jeff Wilcox advised folks concerned about parking to go to the City and request resident-only parking stickers.
Noise - from the musical groups and the car, motorcycles and truck events that happen during the fair - were concerns of many residents.  I smiled as Hardesty tried to console them with vague assurances that they will try to control the musical groups.  The automotive noise will be addressed.  For example, if the contract requires mufflers on vehicles and they show up without them, the event will be cancelled.
Residents along Vanguard expressed concern about parking and rowdy folks, indicating they feel neglected because they are a little farther away from the Fairgrounds.  They were encouraged to immediately call the police if there are problems.
Wadkins assured the neighbors that the CMPD would be there to manage the traffic during the Fair, and to route it to alternate parking sites when the Fairgrounds parking filled up.
Other issues, like being able to buy tickets with a smart phone and not have to print it out, entering the Fair from Gate 5, were discussed.  Kramer, who has only been on the job about 4 months, has a nice, easy style and did her best to make the members of the community feel welcome and appreciated.
This meeting was video taped and will be made available somewhere on the OC Fair web site in the near future.  It sounds like we have yet another terrific Fair ahead of us.  For the past decade more than 1,000,000 people attended the Fair - the ninth largest county fair in the country.  Last year over 1.3 million folks attended.  To learn more about the Orange County Fair and Event Center and the Fair click HERE.

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