It was a day of fresh starts for the Orange County Fair Board Thursday morning, as the panel welcomed three new members and previewed this year's events.
The board also got a first peek at some of the offerings that will be available at this summer's Orange County Fair — which starts in less than 50 days.
Ben Pickett of RCS Carnival, which handles the fair rides, told the board that La Grande Wheel is going up as he spoke. The attraction, he said, is the world's largest transportable Ferris wheel.
A staff presentation featured a list of celebrity chefs, including Kogi BBQ Taco Truck founder Roy Choi, and touted the first ever Brew Hee Haw, a craft beer "roundup," set for July 11 to 13. The event, which will include admission to the fair in its $50 general sale price tag, will feature beer tastings, homebrew experts and a commemorative glass.
Staff members passed out samples of goodies, such as challah and Asiago loaves from Costa Mesa's Blackmarket Bakery, as well as jars of ruby champagne jelly.
Sharon Augenstein, the fair's chief financial officer, talked about the fair's impact on the fairgrounds' bottom line. Though the space hosts numerous events year-round, the fair makes up about 80% of its annual revenue — about $27 million of a $33.9-million budget.
According to the presentation, about 1.4 million people go to the fair, with more than 78,000 on the best-attended day. About 12,000 Super Pass holders will visit more than 42,000 times, it said.
Oke Iyeke, a Westminster High School senior, spoke to board members about some of the more lasting impacts the fair can have on local residents' lives.
A former president of his school's Future Farmers of America group, he told the board about the benefits of raising then showing chickens at the fair throughout his high school career.
His time there, he said, has improved his public speaking skills and has helped him appreciate Orange County's agricultural history.
"It's long — I smell like barbecue at the end of the day," he said. "But I bring home memories, and I'm sad this is going to be my last fair."
All the while, his hen, Buffy, sat placidly, cradled under his arm.
The fair runs July 11 through Aug. 10. This year's theme is "Summer Starts Here."
At the meeting, Chairman Stan Tkaczyk also took a moment to recognize new board members Sandra Cervantes and Robert Ruiz, both of Irvine, as well as Bao Nguyen of Garden Grove. All three were appointed by Gov. Jerry Brown to four-year terms.
The change was a long time coming, said Theresa Sears, an Orange County Fairgrounds Preservation Society member who sharply criticized the board during a controversial attempt to sell the state-owned property to a private entity.
"This is a 'Wow,' day," she said after the meeting. "This is a good day for the people."
The new members replaced Joyce Tucker and Kristina Dodge, who had been on the board since 2006, and Ali Jahangiri, who had served on the nine-member board since 2010. The changes follow the January resignation of Dave Ellis, who pushed for the sale. His seat was taken by Barbara Bagneris of Orange.