Fair Board eyes means of setting up veterans exhibit

It approves steps to create a nonprofit organization, though one director says this would over-complicate matters.

February 27, 2014|By Bradley Zint

The Orange County Fair Board on Thursday approved steps to create a nonprofit organization whose primary goal would be set up a veterans exhibit at the fairgrounds in Costa Mesa.

Officials estimate that it will cost the organization $12,000 to $15,000 to form a federally recognized nonprofit, as well as create bylaws and policies. The board's legal counsel — Manatt, Phelps & Phillips — will do the work.

Fair Board Director Nick Berardino, a Vietnam War-era Marine veteran, said the exhibit will honor the memories of those who served their country and show that "freedom isn't free."


"The veterans' exhibit enthusiasm is just growing," Berardino said, adding that he has discussed the proposal with legislators, veterans groups and other interested parties. "This is really catching on."

The exhibit is tentatively planned for an area near the Centennial Farm and within the Memorial Gardens Building, a former World War II Army barracks that was saved from demolition last year and moved to a temporary location at a fairgrounds parking lot.

Directors Ali Jahangiri and Kristina Dodge dissented. Vice Chairwoman Ashleigh Aitken was absent.

Jahangiri said he felt creating another nonprofit could over-complicate the situation. He referred to the problems experienced during the failed fairgrounds sale attempt a few years ago, when a nonprofit was formed to attempt to buy the 150-acre, state-owned property.

"It got sticky, it got dragged on for years and years," Jahangiri said. "Let's not complicate things, increase legal bills and [create] this nonprofit organization."

Proponents said the new nonprofit could be set up in a fashion similar to the Centennial Farm Foundation, which for decades has successfully governed the 3-acre working farm on the fairgrounds property.

Representatives from Orange Coast College, the veterans community and the Costa Mesa Historical Society will contribute to the effort.

Fair officials on Thursday said the exhibit will be "broad and inclusive" of all U.S. military branches and conflicts. It will contain permanent displays, rotating exhibits and interactive elements. It will also have stories from individual Orange County veterans that highlight their sacrifices and contributions.


D.A. investigation update

Fair Board counsel Roger Grable said the Orange County district attorney's "active" investigation into the failed fairgrounds sale is continuing and he can't speculate on how much longer the examination will take.

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