Concerns raised about Costa Mesa’s birthday party

Jack Hammett, former Costa Mesa mayor and Pearl Harbor veteran, cuts cake with current Mayor Jim Righeimer at the city's 60th anniversary birthday celebration.
(Brittany Woolsey / Daily Pilot)

Costa Mesa’s 60th anniversary party may be over, but memories of the event — what went well and what went wrong — were still fresh Thursday evening.

Members of the 60th Anniversary Planning Committee met at City Hall in their first session since the celebration, which took place June 28 to 30 at City Hall, along a closed-off Fair Drive and at the nearby Orange County Fairgrounds.

The consensus among the meeting’s speakers — which included committee members, city officials and other volunteers — was that while attendees enjoyed themselves in an event that was “a miracle” to get done with about only six months of planning, the scenario behind the scenes wasn’t as rosy.

Some complaints were comparatively small, like when Lola’s Ice Cream ran out of product.

Added local blogger Geoff West: “The cake cutting? Who cares if you ran out of plates?”

Others concerns were a little worse. The city announced that the Foo Fighters were playing on Main Stage, though technically it wasn’t true because all the band members weren’t there.

That was a “miscommunication on staff’s part,” said Christine Cordon, a city staff liaison for the event and the committee’s secretary.

Mike Scheafer, who chairs the committee, said he heard “f-bombs” coming from another performing band, which was apologetic once he expressed his concern to them.

The worst complaint, according to several speakers, was how some of the event’s volunteers were mistreated. Few specifics were offered, though Sue Lester, whose duties included outreach programs and working in the community events subcommittee, said some volunteers weren’t given drinking water or a place to go work.

“There were a lot of bumps as it related to volunteers,” she said, calling the event an otherwise “smashing success.”

“These are all things that can be corrected going forward,” Lester added, “and absolutely 100% need to be corrected going forward.”

Scheafer said volunteer treatment was also his “biggest disappointment.” He said he is a looking into a separate volunteer recognition party that won’t be city-funded, but will rely on other community groups for help.

“I think it’s worth doing,” Scheafer said.

The lack of financial reports associated with the 60th party also came up. City officials said the numbers won’t be finalized and released for another week or two, as invoices are still coming in.

City CEO Tom Hatch, who thanked the committee members and volunteers, said the Costa Mesa Conference and Visitor Bureau may sponsor some shortfall in revenue. Earlier this year, City Council appropriated $125,000 toward the event — $50,000 more than the initial $75,000 announced in December during the 60th committee’s first meeting. Paid city staff also assisted.

The Daily Pilot was one of the celebration’s sponsors. An estimated 15,000 to 20,000 people attended the event.

The various helpers of the event are also set to be recognized during a future council meeting, Hatch said.

As a whole, Hatch said “it was fun to walk around, be the CEO and be proud of this event.”

The committee’s next meeting is Aug. 8 and will likely be in the council chambers at City Hall, not the Emergency Operations Center in the Police Department where other meetings had been.

Scheafer also asked some of the committee members to prepare reports within 10 days about their feelings about the event, including its strengths and weaknesses. An online feedback survey is also planned, Cordon said, but it will only gather input from committee members, sponsors and vendors about “internal factors” and other logistics.

A survey for the volunteers and general public will come later, Cordon said.