Great Park flying high

The seventh anniversary of the Orange County Great Park in Irvine had something for everyone. On Saturday, event goers flew kites, strolled through gardens, visited egg-laying hens and took photos in front of decades-old airplanes.

As visitors entered the park, the smell of roasting corn wafted through the air. But it was soon replaced by the gritty smells of barnyard animals and dirt near a station where kids planted sunflower seeds in pint-sized pots.

Michael and Christine Arroyo, of Colton, visited the park with their four children, Michael pushing a double stroller for his twins.

As their older son and daughter planted seeds, Christine mentioned the family didn't come for the agriculture.

"My son really likes the airplanes," she said before her 6-year-old daughter Eliana chimed in.

"I like the jets," Eliana said. "How they go fast. They're speedy."

The agricultural portion of the park held cooking and composting demonstrations, and expert growers were on hand to explain aspects of each exhibit.

Donna Halker, a "master gardener" and volunteer with the Great Park, manned the chicken coop.

While the event may have seemed harmonious between the humans, there were deep divisions among the fowl in the coop, who were separated to prevent fighting.

"They're establishing a tough pecking order," Halker said, adding the flock was also establishing a "top kahuna of the chickens." As of Saturday, Vanilla, a white-bodied hen, dominated the roost, Halker said.

On the Palm Courts Art Complex, Chris Mazurek and his wife Mary checked out near a N3N-3 Canary biplane which has an open cockpit — a war plane turned crop duster that retired in 1961.

Unlike some who were drawn to the Great Park for its anniversary, Mazurek and his wife are regulars to the park built on the site of former El Toro Marine Corps Air Station.

"It's right in our neighborhood,' Mazurek said. "and I like the air show."

Closer to Hanger 244, an airplane hangar from World War II, half a dozen artists were painting on canvases under umbrellas.

Agapito Doronio, a Hollywood-based artist, painted a young boy lounging, wearing a pilot's helmet and goggles and launching a paper plane into the air. Doronio said he felt inspired by his surroundings, and wanted to paint something nostalgic of a more romantic time in aviation.

"It's an aeronautic-themed event," he said against the background of a clear sky speckled with smaller versions of the park's signature orange balloon.

Behind him whirled the park's carousel, adorned with murals of the Great Park and an orange-turned-comet traveling through outer space.

In front of Doronio were about a dozen people running with newly-made kites on the North Lawn. Some kites took nose dives into the manicured lawns, while others inched their way closer to the dozens of orange globes that covered the park.

"It's a beautiful park," Doronio commented.

Twitter: @lawilliams30

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