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Starting a tradition

May 06, 2002

Bryce Alderton

Cinco de Mayo marks the Mexican Army's victory over the French at the

Battle of Puebla in 1862 and, on Sunday, residents of a section of

Newport Coast gathered to celebrate the festive holiday.

About 800 residents of the 1,500-home Newport Coast Community Assn.

congregated at the clubhouse of the Coastal Canyon Park to savor Mexican

fare that included shredded chicken and beef tacos, rice and beans, and

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chips and salsa. They also participated in games such as "Hot Potato,"

played with a yellow lizard, had their faces painted and jumped on a

trampoline.

The Walrod family sat a table next to the pool, eating tacos.

"What's not to like, look at the setting," said mother Chris Walrod,

looking out over the pool and surrounding hillsides.

Walrod sat with her two sons, Cooper, 11, and Petey, 10.

"It's a chance to get to know our neighbors," Chris Walrod said.

The association's board of directors came up with the idea for a

celebration last year, said Melodie LaMont, the group's executive

director.

"The idea was to have one event in the spring and one in late summer.

People don't usually go anywhere for [Cinco de Mayo]. We wanted to get as

many people as we could. Joe [Bolich] deserves all the credit."

Bolich serves as facilities administrator for Merit Property

Management, Inc., the company that manages the 5- to 6-acre private park

that opened last June. It contains a clubhouse and pool, three tennis

courts, a tot lot and grass areas. Bolich, lead facilities manager Tyrone

Meixsell and assistant facilities administrator Robert Crandall began

planning for the Cinco de Mayo celebration in January.

Their work included securing five mariachi players, a disc jockey and

emcee, a shuttle service, food and an entertainment company to stage

games for the entire family. Association dues pay the $10,000 price tag,

Bolich said.

One game resembled musical chairs, where families walked in a circle

around hula hoops placed on the pavement as "Celebration" by Kool & The

Gang played. When the music stopped, families had to find a circle to

step in.

The Greenberg family -- made up of father Bart, mother Allison, and

daughters Kathryn, 4, and Elizabeth, 3, strolled hand-in-hand around the

hoops and were one of two remaining families at the end of the game.

"We knew it would be fun," Allison Greenberg said.

The Greenbergs have lived in Newport Coast for almost five years.

"You see all these people informally, so now you get a chance to see

your neighbors," Bart Greenberg said. "You're always trying to think of

things to keep the kids busy."

The association encompasses 15 subcommunities within Newport Coast.

Sunday's celebration was a welcome sight for Ron Schoenbaum, a

five-year Newport Coast resident and 4-month member of the association.

Schoenbaum watched as a face painter drew a yellow flower on the right

cheek of Schoenbaum's 2-year-old daughter, Hannah.

"It's good they have events like this," Schoenbaum said. "We've had

parties within the development, but haven't had multi-development

[parties] thrown by the master association."

LaMont said she hopes to see similar events keep residents busy.

"I hope this is the first of many [events] to establish a tradition

for the neighborhood," LaMont said.

* Bryce Alderton is the news assistant. He may be reached at (949)

574-4298 or by e-mail at o7 bryce.alderton@latimes.comf7 .

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