Community Commentary: 'The Fair is dead, long live the Fair'

The fairgrounds sale is now in its 18th mind-numbing month. Still, it is difficult to understand the events leading up to today. As one who spent that 18 months at the vortex, I will spare you the hundreds of details, save for a few, even though there are hundreds to spare while trying to explain. Themes seem to be best way to tell the story.

At the risk of seeming trite or glib, this is no more than history repeating itself. While the Orange County Fair introduces a new, fresh theme each year, the fairgrounds' sale carries epic and timeless themes, ones that have made for some of best literary fare in history. We need only take a walk through time to understand where we stand today.

"The web of our life is of a mingled yarn, good and ill together"

"All's Well that Ends Well"

William Shakespeare

Whether you liken the sale to the tragedy of King Lear or A Comedy of Errors, one thing is for sure: the number of plotlines, twists and turns and surprising outcomes has taken on Shakespearean proportions and keeps us guessing about how the epilogue will unfold. Worse, none of us can turn pages to see how it all ends. It is being written with each day.

"These are the times that try Men's Souls"

"The American Crisis"

Thomas Paine

Paine's statement of the American Revolution expressed the fight for independence from Great Britain, testing and exposing those who believed as well as those who scoffed at the dream.

The dream of local governance and freedom to meet the needs of the community produced uncompromising characters seeking succession and an invocation of courage to venture into the unknown. With the victory that birthed America, history now only tells of those brave hearts and souls who succeeded by establishing local control, never of those who criticized with an argument of status quo and better the devil we know. They knew there is no status quo in real time; only photos and statues stay status quo.

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times."

"A Tale of Two Cities"

Charles Dickens

The opening line of Dickens' masterpiece on the French Revolution may have surprised many readers as it reminded us that even times of extreme strife, there is still room for the best in life. While the "Fair Revolution" wages and rages on, we have just seen the most extraordinary watershed period in the fair's history.

The OC Fair & Event Center became the host venue of the OC Marathon and Kids Run OC Race, self-produced an 11-minute state of the art 3-D Movie "Al's Brain," hosted the Maloof Money Cup's world premiere, debuted the OC Breezeway and administration building as well as The Hangar and its newly produced concert series, hosted the Barrett-Jackson Classic Car Auction inaugural event in Orange County, positioned the Pacific Amphitheatre as the No. 1 venue for its size in U.S., expanded the fair from 21 days to a 23-day, 5-week operation — making it the longest running fair in the country — entered the top ten list of highest attended fairs in the U.S., and set an attendance record of 1.15 million in 2010.

"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it"

"Reason in Common Sense"

George Santayana

The Spanish-born American citizen poet and philosopher, whose namesake, ironically, closely mirrors that of the city where the first fair was hosted in 1890 and the location of the newly purchased fairgrounds in 1949, coined this phrase that was adopted by William Shirer in 1959 as the epigraph for the Third Reich.

So, how will we remember this as we go forward? The Czechoslovakian-born French citizen and novelist, Milan Kundera, may offer a clue in his 1996 work "Slowness": "The degree of slowness is directly proportional to the intensity of memory; the degree of speed is directly proportional to the degree of forgetting. May we never again be in bondage of or held hostage by speed, lest it eighty-six … or ninety-six as it were, our goal of stewarding community good."

Finally, in French royalty, between the end of a reign and the beginning of the next, the proclamation "The King is dead, long live the King" was invoked. While it is too early to foresee every lesson to be gleaned from this situation, one is clear. The fair and fairgrounds must embrace evolution, not revolution, to move into the future.

We owe it to the fair to join hands as a community and say together, "The Fair is dead, long live the Fair," and get started on shaping our future or we will surely live someone else's. Let's walk on.

STEVEN BEAZLEY is president and chief executive of the OC Fair & Event Center in Costa Mesa.

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