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Community Commentary: Meet the new heart of the O.C. Fair

July 14, 2010|By Steve Beazley

How big is your heart?

There are two answers, one physical, one emotional. I'll take the first, you the second.

Make a fist. You heart is about that size. Now pump your fist two times, pause, two times, pause, etc. That is your heart beating. Now the second, how big is your heart? We'll return to this in a moment.

It's the Orange County Fair's 120th birthday! Since the birth of the fair at Bristol Street and Edinger Avenue, the fair has aged beautifully and become the matriarch of our county, welcoming the community to recreate, relax and restore themselves to better meet life's challenges and opportunities.

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We also celebrate the birthday of the Hangar, built upon the most hallowed location on the fairgrounds, the heart of the fair. Let me explain.

In 1942, the Army built the Santa Ana Army Air Base to support the U.S. effort in World War II. The base served as basic training for young cadets, who would then go on to military flight school and serve their country.

The Hangar location was originally that of the base's gymnasium. A place for cadets to recreate, relax and restore themselves before resuming their basic training regime.

In 1949, after the war had ended, the War Assets Administration sold a 150-acre parcel of the land to the Orange County Fair Board, with the gymnasium the centerpiece of the property. The board chose the gymnasium to be the heart of the fair in its first master plan and would house the most elaborate of feature exhibits in the gym. Over time, as the fair matured, the descriptor "gymnasium" fell away in favor of the name Exhibit Hall.

By 2000, Exhibit Hall had aged to the point where it had to be retired and replaced with a temporary building, serving as a place holder until the new vision of the heart of the fairgrounds could be realized.

Nearly seven decades after the gym's birth and 10 years since the Exhibit Hall's death, the Hangar now inherits and inhabits the heartbeat of the fairgrounds.

The Hangar, in its design, embraces traditional features of a gymnasium while suggesting an airplane hangar, complete with large doors opening to the blue skies, where young cadets turned pilots soared, fighting to maintain our freedom.

The Hangar will now and into the future be a place for the community to recreate, relax and restore themselves, making their lives better.

So happy 120th birthday to the O.C. Fair, and happy birthday to the Hangar for all they will represent in the future while honoring the past.

Make a fist. Now pump your fist two times, pause, two times, pause, two times, etc. Now say "The Beat…Goes On" while pumping your fist. Let's pledge to make this the fair greeting and to affirm that we are people of the 2010 O.C. Fair and no matter what the future holds, let's remind each other, "The Beat…Goes On…The Beat…Goes On…"

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

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