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The Crowd: Cannery owner named Hero Beyond the Hashmarks during Irrelevant Week

Cannery Seafood of the Pacific owner Ron Salisbury, recipient of the Paul Salata Hero Beyond the Hashmarks award.
Cannery Seafood of the Pacific owner Ron Salisbury, recipient of the Paul Salata Hero Beyond the Hashmarks award for being kind to others and giving back to the community.
(Courtesy of Irrelevant Week)

Tradition matters on the Orange Coast. Special summer traditions focus on the sporting life unique to the fortunate living on the glorious Pacific Rim.

In Newport Beach, the 46-year anniversary of an event known as Irrelevant Week, held at the end of June, captivated the enthusiasm of football fans locally with attention spreading nationwide.

Created by the late Paul Salata, former NFL player with the San Francisco 49ers and other teams, Irrelevant Week recognizes — and more importantly celebrates and encourages — the annual final pick of the NFL draft. Salata’s lifelong motivation was to always support the underdog.

This year, Brock Purdy, quarterback from Iowa State was drafted in the NFL’s Round 7, pick No. 262, making him Mr. Irrelevant 2022. Purdy starts training camp next week with Salata’s former team, the San Francisco 49ers, following his immersion in this weeklong NFL tradition carried on by Salata’s daughter Melanie Fitch, and her team of dedicated volunteers and donors.

NFL draftee Brock Purdy, Mr. Irrelevant 2022, was feted at weeklong celebration in Newport Beach.
NFL draftee Brock Purdy, Mr. Irrelevant 2022 was feted at weeklong celebration in Newport Beach. Next week he starts training camp for the San Francisco 49ers.
(Courtesy of Irrelevant Week)

It all began on a Monday in late June when Purdy and family members were invited by Fitch’s team to stay at the world renown Pelican Hill Resort with support from General Manager Person Garcia and the Irvine Co. The week of celebration kicked off with an outrigger paddling session at the Newport Beach Aquatic Center, followed by the annual Lowsman Banquet held at the iconic Cannery Seafood of the Pacific dining room on the Newport Peninsula.

Ron Salisbury, owner of the Cannery and patriarch of the century-long SoCal restaurant family dynasty primarily known for its El Cholo banner of Mexican restaurants, hosted and underwrote more than 250 guests attending the Purdy tribute on behalf of Irrelevant Week charities.

When Fitch introduced Salisbury to the crowd, cheers and hoots deafened the room as the 89-year-young legend accepted Paul Salata’s Hero Beyond the Hashmarks award for simply being kind and compassionate to others and for giving back to the community.

Fitch emphasized Salisbury’s humble, quiet nature calling him a man who has always reached out to assist the underserved and deserving people in need.

“Just an all-around good guy,” she said.

As a way to “pay forward” Salisbury’s generosity, Fitch went further to announce that a donation would be made to Salisbury’s charity, Augie’s Quest, which raises awareness and funds for ALS treatment and research.

A second big beneficiary of the evening was Orange County Youth Sports Foundation, which supports youth programs.

The following day Purdy traveled to L.A. for interviews in-studio at the NFL Network and FOX Sports. Back in Newport Beach, a night out on the beach scene included 49ers fans and Iowa State fans getting to meet the new quarterback with the goal of making it on the roster and launching his NFL career, a football dream the young man has nurtured since childhood when he threw the ball around with his dad. The entourage invaded local beach hangouts by the Newport pier including the Stag, Sharkeez, 22nd Street Pizza, Trivia, and Mutt Lynches.

A chance to learn to surf the next morning introduced Purdy to fellow Newport surfers and one legendary champion Peter Townsend. The football quarterback held his own, at least almost, on Townsend’s longboard.

Irrelevant Week concluded with immersion in another Newport summer tradition, a visit to the Junior Guards on A Street. Later, Purdy joined Lido Isle’s Richley family aboard the Yacht Amante for the Beer Can Sailing Regatta on Newport Harbor.

Melanie Salata Fitch, chair of Irrelevant Week with sports broadcaster John Ireland.
(Courtesy of Irrelevant Week)

Joining Melanie and Ed Fitch in carrying on the Paul Salata mission “of doing something nice for someone for no particular reason,” Irrelevant Week underwriters include Stan and Mari Frome, the Frome Family Foundation; Steve Craig, the Craig Realty Group; Don McNerney, Hayne & Co. CPA’s; Don Harrell from Morgan Stanley, Rayna Elmendorf, Soogie and Don Kang; and Person Garcia supporting the event with his son Bryce Garcia, among others.

Special guests in the crowd included master of ceremonies and broadcaster John Ireland, Vince Ferragamo, former Rams QB; Paul McDonald, former QB of Cleveland and Dallas and Matt Willig, who played for the Rams and other teams. Willig delivered heartfelt words of encouragement to Purdy based on his own early days in the NFL.

Among local dignitaries and guests, Newport Beach Mayor Kevin Muldoon joined Police Chief Jon Lewis and Fire Chief Jeff Boyles helping to make the event a success. From the Commodores, John Wortmann and Steve Rosansky were also front and center supporting Fitch and the Salata legacy.

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