As the sun set over City Hall, the crowd descended upon nearby Fair Drive which, for the first time anyone could remember, was closed off to car traffic.
In its place Friday evening was day one of three for Costa Mesa's 60th anniversary celebration. The nearly half-mile section of Fair Drive was full of families having fun, eating food, riding carnival rides, playing games and learning all about what their city has to offer.
The "Artwalk" section had artists crafting new pieces. There were booths from businesses and Costa Mesa-based entities such as the Automobile Club of Southern California and Mesa Water District.
The Noble Cause Foundation brought vintage-clothed dancers and displayed some World War II-era vehicles, including one that was in Normandy on D-Day. The Costa Mesa-based nonprofit's goal is to preserve "the legacy of the Greatest Generation."
Mike Scheafer, wearing an Angels hat and T-shirt, sat comfortably underneath a shaded booth, watching the crowds go by. The Costa Mesa resident since 1958 was there Friday to sell tickets to the Aug. 3 "Costa Mesa Night" Angels game against the Toronto Blue Jays in Anaheim.
Scheafer, who also serves on the Costa Mesa Sanitary District, has been serving as chairman of the 60th Anniversary Planning Committee, which first met in December and congregated nearly every week afterward to get the festivities rolling. It had various subcommittees and other groups.
"People always get nervous about these things," he said. "It's no different than the Fish Fry. But once you get it done, it really rolls together nice."
Hundreds of volunteer hours went into the effort, Scheafer said.
The city has contributed at least $125,000 toward the event, which was approved by the council, as well as some paid staff time. Other funding is coming from various other sources, including sponsors that include the Daily Pilot.
"I hope people realize how historic this is," Scheafer said. "Nothing like this, to this scale, has ever been done."
When asked about the significance of the 60th anniversary — which is much bigger than what was done for the 50th — he said, "I think people in Costa Mesa are looking forward to doing something like this. The city needs something like this.
"With all the travails and stuff we've been going through the last few years, I think this is something needed. I really do."
Hank Panian, an 84-year-old retired Orange Coast College history professor, was manning the Costa Mesa Historical Society's booth when he had a blast from the past: A student, now retired, whom he taught in 1956 came by and said hello.
Mayor Jim Righeimer was walking along Fair Drive and greeting residents. He was fresh off the plane from a Hawaiian vacation, dressed casually and with a "Costa Mesa 1953" hat.
"This is amazing," he said. "I didn't think we thought we'd actually close off the street."
And what of the 60th significance?
"We knew that we couldn't wait until 75," Righeimer quipped. "We'd all be too old."
He said the city had a presence before its incorporation and would make it closer to 100 years old.
"There's a lot of things happening in the city, a lot of positive things," Righeimer said. "I think after all the work we're doing in the city, let's celebrate. It's not just Costa Mesa; it's Orange County."
The 60th anniversary continues from 3 to 11 p.m. Saturday and noon to 8 p.m. Sunday. There is free admission and parking, which can be found at the Orange County Fairgrounds.
Tickets must be bought for food. All concerts are free except for the Main Stage on the fairgrounds. A one-day pass is $25 at the door. Saturday's Main Stage lineup is highlighted by Eric Burdon and the Animals, who also headlined at the infamous Newport Pop Festival in 1968 at the fairgrounds.
For a full list of events and concerts, visit http://www.costamesais60.com.