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Venezia: OC Fairgrounds Soap Opera Continues

March 2010
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OC Register

It’s time for another edition of the ongoing soap opera, “As the OC Fairgrounds Turns.” Months ago I suggested the producers, (aka the governor’s office), needed to totally re-cast the main characters. Firing the Fair Board and removing the CEO would certainly bring up ratings and credibility!

Last month I wrote about how out of touch with reality the Fair Board and CEO Steve Beazley really are. Needless to say they weren’t happy. I heard from Robin Wachner, OC Fair Event Center Communications Director. Her email stated “In the future, you can contact me directly before you go to print with one of your columns that mention OCFEC so you can be more informed and balanced in your writing.”

Balance in one thing, drinking the Kool-Aid is another. Hello … this is an opinion column, not a news column! And my opinion remains, the Fair Board’s actions have been self-serving and hinky from day one.

At their last meeting they voted to adopt recommendations from a 2004 California Performance Review regarding state fairgrounds. Why didn’t they adopt the recommendations in 2004? Six years later they’re just catching up? The world of 2010 is vastly different from that of 2004.

With each new “plan” the Fair Board tosses around the words “local control” like a Frisbee, yet critics say the only control they’re trying to hang on to is their own.

The rumor mill’s cranking away. Did Beazley and Dick Ackerman go to Sacramento hoping to convince powers in the governors’ office to change the OC Fair from a District Agricultural Association (DAA) classification to a Citrus Fruit Fair one?

Dick told me he was in Sacramento because he teaches a political science class at Berkeley and his students were on a class outing regarding internship at the state capitol.

Was there a second element to this trip having to do with OC Fair stuff? Dick said he “couldn’t comment,” but did say the Citrus Fruit Fair classification was looked at initially by the Fair Board. They decided to create a non-profit instead (and we all know how well that worked out).

Changing the classification from DAA to Citrus Fruit Fair’s a long shot. Classifications were set up aimed at what a fair does in its competition/exhibition aspect to promote the area’s citrus or agricultural industry. Looking at the history of the two current citrus fairs: Cloverdale Citrus Fair and San Bernardino’s National Orange Show, even though the citrus industries in those areas have diminished since their inception, they’re pretty much grandfathered remaining citrus fairs.

Similarly, the OC Fair has moved away from its agricultural roots. Themes like “Think Big for Weird Al’s Brain,” and 2010’s “The Beat Goes On,” are hardly agriculturally oriented.

Citrus fruit fairs still fall under oversight by the California Department of Fairs and Expositions, but their board members aren’t appointed by the governor. So in reality, the current OC Fair Board could appoint themselves to serve on an “association,” giving them unprecedented control. The open meeting laws are also not as stringent.

Sure, this would mean less control by the state, but with the current Fair Board in charge, the last thing we need is less control over this cast of characters.


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