Snow expected in Costa Mesa this week as Winter Fest opens at O.C. fairgrounds
Good morning. It’s Wednesday, Nov. 22, and tomorrow is Thanksgiving Day! I’m Carol Cormaci, bringing you this week’s TimesOC newsletter with a look at the latest local news and events.
Orange County has so far this month experienced more than enough dispiriting news, from the loss to fire of the huge World War II hangar in Tustin, to unthinkable crimes against others (see the “More News” and multiple “Public Safety” entries in this newsletter for a sampling), so let’s put the spotlight here today on something much more lighthearted, the Winter Fest O.C. that is returning to provide joy to this holiday season.
The festive extravaganza in the style of a winter wonderland — a bit of a fantasy in our sunny clime — opens Friday and runs through Jan. 7 at the Orange County fairgrounds.
“A lot of people in Orange County really haven’t experienced winter before,” Winter Fest O.C. executive producer Mark Entner told my colleague Matt Szabo for a story running in Thursday’s issue of the Daily Pilot. “Especially kids and so forth, maybe they haven’t had the chance to go up to our local mountains when sometimes we do get snow. This is a fantastic opportunity for our community to be able to enjoy a winter experience.”
Among the festival’s offerings are activities inside an 8,000-square-foot pavilion where there visitors can play in real snow. It features a snow carousel, snow slides and a snowball range.
A few other tidbits gleaned from Szabo’s story: Miniature golf fans can participate in “Polar putt-putt,” a nine-hole course that’s returning for its second year. People hunting for gifts can browse through the holiday market, or maybe win some as prizes while testing their skills at carnival games. And get this: You can rent a private fireside igloo, if you’re so inclined.
Winter Fest O.C. will be open on Thursdays and Fridays from 4 to 10 p.m., and Saturdays and Sundays from 2 to 10 p.m. Starting with Christmas on Monday, Dec. 25, the experience will be open every day until it closes on Jan. 7.
If you’re intrigued, don’t wait much longer to buy tickets, because you can save money if you take advantage of the preseason sale that ends tomorrow (Thursday) at 11:59 p.m., when tickets are $34.99 plus fees for adults and $29.99 for children ages 3 to 12. Tickets can only be purchased at the Winter Fest website.
• Hundreds gathered last Wednesday night for the candlelight vigil held for the late Tatum Goodwin at the end of the San Clemente Pier. Goodwin, the woman whose body was found in Laguna Beach on the morning of Nov. 12, was remembered as having been “a friend to everyone.” The same evening, authorities announced that 26-year-old Dino Rojas-Moreno had been arrested as a suspect in connection with Goodwin’s killing. He pleaded not guilty Monday to beating her to death with a fire extinguisher.
• High Santa Ana winds became perilous in some O.C. locations this week. On Disneyland’s venerable Main Street U.S.A., a light pole toppled just before 8:30 a.m. Monday. Three park visitors were injured, one of them hospitalized with serious injuries, Anaheim fire officials reported. At John Wayne Airport, also on Monday morning, a gust of wind flipped over a single-engine Cessna 172, but the pilot avoided any injury.
• Faced with declining enrollment, the Ocean View School District voted last week to close one of its middle schools. The decision came after considerable study of the issue. Some elementary schools were also under consideration for closure, but after hearing from parents who wanted those K-6 campuses to continue operating, the school board opted to close just the middle school, for now anyway, according to coverage of the meeting by my colleague Matt Szabo.
• Costa Mesa’s South Coast Collection has been sold for a reported $110 million to an East Coast investor. Baltimore-based Continental Realty Corp. is the buyer, and this is its first California asset, according to this Daily Pilot story. Built in 2007 on a 20-acre Hyland Avenue parcel, SoCo and the OC Mix were previously owned by Rockwood Capital, LLC, a real estate investment management firm that purchased the site in 2015.
• A police pursuit in O.C. last Thursday evening ended in a suicide and a vehicle fire. Costa Mesa fire crews rushed to the intersection of Placentia Avenue and Victoria Street where a police pursuit that began in Garden Grove at around 4:30 p.m. ended shortly thereafter with an apparent suicide of the driver and the vehicle erupting in flames. The Daily Pilot story on the incident can be found here.
• A Garden Grove man has been charged with voluntary manslaughter for the shooting death of a homeless man, according to the O.C. district attorney’s office. The L.A. Times reports that Craig Sumner Elliott, 68, was jogging along with his two dogs in the 10400 block of Katella Avenue in Garden Grove, pushing a jogging stroller, when he came across 40-year-old Antonio Garcia Avalos asleep on the sidewalk. “Elliott allegedly nudged Avalos with the push cart, and Avalos woke up yelling and telling Elliott to get away from him,” the Times reports in its story. “Elliott then began recording Avalos and grabbed his handgun from the cart, according to prosecutors. When Avalos stood up and threw a shoe at Elliott, the Garden Grove man shot Avalos three times, prosecutors say.”
• One person was killed and four were injured Monday morning during a crash in Buena Park. The two-car collision occurred just before noon near the intersection of La Palma and Knott avenues and resulted in one of the vehicles flipping on its side, according to City News Service.
• Matthew Antonio Zakrzewski, the babysitter convicted of molesting boys in his care, was sentenced Friday to more than 700 years in prison. Zakrzewski was convicted last month of 34 felony sex charges involving 16 boys, aged 2 to 14, and showing another victim child pornography. Prosecutors said the Costa Mesa man committed the crimes from 2014 through 2019.
• A driver was robbed at gunpoint on an O.C. freeway on-ramp after a staged collision last week. The victim was stopped on the Beach Boulevard on-ramp to the northbound 405 (San Diego) Freeway after the fake collision when several masked people got out of the other vehicle, a white Ford Explorer, and robbed the person of cash and jewelry.
• Police arrested a Huntington Beach woman on suspicion of the murder Friday of an elderly woman in a home on Tyndall Drive. Christine Ann Lamphier, 48, was taken into custody at 4:49 a.m. Friday. According to the Daily Pilot report on the arrest, Orange County Superior court records indicate Lamphier was previously at the center of a handful of hearings involving a mental health conservatorship in 2019, although the outcome of those proceedings are unknown. The name of the victim, whom detectives believe to be an individual known to Lamphier, had still not been released by the coroner’s office Tuesday afternoon, pending full confirmation of the woman’s identity.
• An Amazon employee was stabbed in a Mission Viejo warehouse on Tuesday. O.C. sheriff’s deputies were sent out at 9:32 a.m. to the facility on Jeronimo Road, where they found the injured woman, who was taken to a hospital in critical condition, according to City News Service. A suspect, who may be an ex-employee, surrendered to deputies and was being detained as of midday yesterday.
LIFE & LEISURE
• The new Mercado González in Costa Mesa is unique venture for the family who owns the Northgate Market empire. Members of the enormous family gathered last Tuesday with city officials and community business leaders to celebrate Northgate’s 45th installment, Mercado González.
• Paula Tomei, the longtime director of South Coast Repertory, will be stepping down at the end of August, it was recently announced. Tomei has spent 44 years working behind the scenes with the organization. “For me, it needed to be the right time for SCR,” she told my colleague Sara Cardine for this Daily Pilot feature story. “This is my home in so many ways, it’s important for me that the organization is healthy and stable and ready — and I think it is,” she said.
• Visit Newport Beach, the marketing arm for the city, has curated a calendar of “50 Days of Festive Fun” to attract travelers. The team kicked off the effort with the annual lighting of the 90-foot tree in the Neiman Marcus – Bloomingdale’s courtyard at Fashion Island. “Every single day, there will be different programming that has a holiday theme. Depending on when you come to Newport Beach, you will see some aspect of Christmas or the holidays in general,” said Gary Sherwin, CEO of the organization.
• Surprising no Angels fans, the Baseball Writers Assn. of America named Shohei Ohtani the American League MVP last week. The two-way star for the Halos is the first player to win the award by a unanimous vote twice. L.A. Times sportswriter Sarah Valenzuela reports the full story here. In it, she notes Ohtani racked up other significant honors this year — he was also named AL Outstanding Player, in the Players Choice awards, and won his second Silver Slugger award.
• Former Angels manager Phil Nevin, a finalist to become San Diego Padres manager, lost out to to Mike Shildt. The Padres announced Tuesday Shildt had been given a two-year contract, reports the L.A. Times. There’s some speculation Nevin could go to the New York Mets as a bench coach.
• Orange County locals comprise five of the 12-surfer team competing in the 2023 ISA World Junior Surfing Championship. The event is being held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil this Friday through Dec. 3. Sara Freyre of Huntington Beach was one of three Under-18 girls selected, while Mia McLeish and Eden Walla of San Clemente made the U16 girls’ team. Costa Mesa’s Quaid Fahrion was one of three U16 boys to make the cut, as was Rex Hennings of San Clemente.
• Two local athletes won their respective divisions Saturday during the CIF Southern Section cross-country championships at Mt. San Antonio College. Corona del Mar High’s Melisse Djomby Enyawe and Pacifica Christian’s Ella Murray, both seniors, had a great day, with Djomby Enyawe completing the rain course in 16 minutes 46.6 seconds to beat her Division 3 counterparts by 29 seconds. Murray won the Division 5 girls’ race in 17:52.6, according to this coverage of the championships by my colleague Andrew Turner.
• The Balboa Island Holiday Home Tour will feature eight festively decorated homes this year. The Balboa Island Improvement Assn. has been organizing this fundraiser, a walking tour, for 25 years. This year’s event takes place Sunday, Dec. 10, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tickets are $40 and can be purchased online here.
• A Hikari Festival of Lights gets underway Friday night at Tanaka Farms in Irvine. Hours are 4:30 to 10 p.m. Visitors can ride around the farm in a wagon pulled by a lighted tractor, enjoy a holiday market, visit barnyard animals, meet Santa Claus or participate in family-friendly activities such as games and crafts, and shop the Christmas tree lot. Food will be available at the Tanaka Grill and live music will be performed on weekend nights. Tanaka Farms is located at 5380 3/4 University Drive. Tickets range from $15 for kids to $35. Parking is $10. Save money by booking early at this site.
• Anime Night Mart will be marking its first anniversary at the Buena Park Mall on Sunday. More than 50 Anime-inspired vendors and businesses will be showcasing their offerings in front of the Krikorian Theater. A scavenger hunt, cosplay contest and more activities are promised. Hours are noon to 7 p.m. Buena Park Downtown Mall is located at 8390 La Palma Ave. More details can be found here.
• L.A. Times columnist Gustavo Arellano this week tackles the recent failed recall of Santa Ana’s mayor pro tem, Jessie Lopez. Arellano, who attended the election-night gathering in support of Lopez at Chato’s Bar and Grill, says the failed attempt to unseat her heralds a new era for Latino politics in Orange County.
KEEP IN TOUCH
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