Stifling sounds of the fair

The Orange County Fair intends to be quiet this year, at least from the outside.

An open house at the fairgrounds Wednesday evening showed off changes intended to keep as much noise as possible from leaking out into the surrounding neighborhoods while the festivities run from July 11 to Aug. 10.

At the Pacific Amphitheatre, the fair's main concert stage, consultant Gary Hardesty told a group of a few dozen neighbors to yell into a row of panels that were constructed behind the top row of seating.

"I want you guys to go over to that wall and talk to that wall," he said and listened as the barrier absorbed their voices without echo.

Certain platforms at the amphitheater have also been raised so sound can be better directed into the crowd, and a new lobby building is being built in a way that will deflect echoes up into the air instead of toward nearby homes, Hardesty said.

"Getting the sound higher and pushing it down more is better," he explained.

In the fair's Action Sports Arena, the same idea of better-directed sound was on display.

Hardesty showed an entire new sound system with speakers replacing outdated equipment that tended to bleed in all directions – but no longer.

"The point is, it's very, very directional," Hardesty said. "It doesn't go very far."

Although the new system puts a cap on noise from announcers and music coming from the arena, it doesn't turn down car engine noise like that heard during a monster truck event.

To combat that sound, Fair Safety and Security Supervisor Nick Buffa said monster truck drivers will be required this year to tone down the noise using techniques like double muffling.

Nevertheless, he urged any neighbors bothered by the noise to let fair staff know. He'll likely be hearing about it anyway.

Buffa lives near the fair's north side in Mesa Del Mar.

"I have the best spy sitting at home in my wife," he said.

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