HG: Los Alamitos Sugar Beet Festival–R.I.P.

(4/24/2014, Los Alamitos)   While watching a recent city council meeting on LATV3 I was taken back a couple of years. I remembered the impassioned talks from the podium about this really cool idea that would add another star to the City’s chart.

After all it was celebrating historical events that were intertwined with a city that was to become Los Alamitos. Part of the sales pitch was that it would probably result in an influx of participants and “tourists” that could only have a positive effect on local businesses.

Los Alamitos Sugar Beet Factory, opened 7/21/1987

The Los Alamitos-Seal Beach Patch and the OC Breeze had articles that noted the organizers intent was  “…a celebration of local history…and the people and groups that make the city an unbeatable place to live”. We read also that it will, “…highlight nearby businesses, and  feature food from local restaurants…”. And of course, the term Old Town Los Alamitos was mentioned more than once.

Additionally we were told that it would enhance Los Al as a destination rather than a place one passed through on the way to spend their money somewhere else. And of course we were told about the connection with local non-profits. After all, how could one not want to “help the children.”

So, I guess I was comfortable with  the city spending my hard-earned tax dollars. But I will admit that I have not been able to find the exact numbers in past city council agendas and minutes.

Moved to Seal Beach?

What brought back those memories at the recent meeting was another impassioned plea from a member of the audience. It was still about the Festival, and a plea for money, but the venue had moved down the street to Seal Beach.

So it seems, this year, our neighbors to the South will be the beneficiaries of any retail business related exposure and direct sales dollars.  So I guess the Los Al event is like a highly touted college basketball player…one and done. And I would presume a similar presentation was put before the Seal Beach City Council, as well as the Shops at Rossmoor folks.

In a letter to the Los Al Director of Recreation and Community Services, the promoter requested assistance in the form of fee waivers for any costs associated with Festival activities that required some form of city support. In return, the city would receive publicity on the Festival’s website. Not really sure why this is a good thing, or even something we need, or something we would normally do.

Just as an aside, I wonder if my friends and neighbors in Rossmoor are looking forward to yet another event on their doorstep that will generate noise, air, and traffic pollution.

From the Los Alamitos City Council Agenda dated, March 17, 2014 (Item No: 9A), the council’s options are discussed. Associated costs could include, at a minimum: $650 for police services; $250 Special Event Permit; $475 for City and Traffic Engineering services; $1858 Special Event Insurance. And this does not include the time spent by city staff to attend meetings and prepare reports. The agenda notes that any waived fees will require a transfer from the General Fund Reserves.

Please note: My comments are in no way intended to be critical of an event that I enjoyed on a number of levels, including being an additional “local” gathering, an education on our City’s history, and adding to a sense of community.

I guess my issues are with my perception of the sales pitch and the resulting expenditure (of fee waivers) of my tax dollars.

I must also point out and would like to recognize Councilman Richard Murphy for his nay vote on this issue. He understands that there are so many more effective places that our limited budgetary dollars need to go to.

“I’ve said we need to look at things from the perspective of working people and taxpayers, not from the perspective of government and government officials”

 – Scott McCallum (1950 – ). Was the 43rd Governor of Wisconsin. Now CEO of Aidmatrix, a nonprofit that matches corporate donations of surplus food and supplies with groups in need.

…And that’s just the way I see it.

About Highlands Guy

"Highlands Guy" is a long time Los Alamitos resident and community volunteer who enjoys asking probing questions about our town and looking for answers and for ways to make our community even better.
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6 Responses to HG: Los Alamitos Sugar Beet Festival–R.I.P.

  1. Concerned resident says:

    I am so disappointed to discover that the Los Alamitos Sugar Beet Festival will not take place in Old Town Los Al this year, but in Seal Beach instead.

    I went to this wonderful, community festival last year and I was so impressed. I am a Cypress resident and many of us are very disappointed with the corporate-feel, corporate-sponsored Cypress Festival in July. After going to the Los Al Sugar Beet Festival, I thought, wow, this is the type of true COMMUNITY FESTIVAL that Cypress needs. The organizers tied the festival to the history of the community and the land – great move. There were so many enthusiastic Los Al residents and young people there, volunteering their time and giving LIFE to the festival. I learned about many non-profits that are based in Los Al, meets some public officials and enjoyed the historic location of ‘Old Town Los Al’. Great food too.

    You know, Los Al actually has an area that it can claim as ‘Old Town” – many towns in Orange County can not make that same claim – we do not know our history and our short history is not being preserved. I am impressed with so many aspects of Los Al and the awesome people in Los Al – I hope that the Los Al Sugar Beet Festival returns to Old Town Los Al. I was there last year and there was space – you can make it work, I know you can.

  2. To Highlands Guy — and “Concerned Resident”

    As the creator of the Sugar Beet festival (not the Los Alamitos Sugar Beet festival — more on that later) I read with interest HG’s comments re our event and our move to The Shops at Rossmoor. It is satisfying to know that people appreciated last year’s event and regret the move. It was not done without much thought.

    For the most part, we were very happy with last year’s event, but there were still issues that were problematic towards growing the festival.

    The concerns were simple:

    Layout — curbs, telephone poles, shrubs, parking bumpers, etc., limited how we could place a number of tents and large footprint elements. This resulted in some vendors and non-profits feeling blocked off from what they perceived as “the main area.”

    Set up Time/Take Down — Last year we had to set up everything after 6pm on Friday and make sure the streets were all clear by the end of day Saturday.

    Approvals — Securing the “Old Town” Los Alamitos involved a lot of moving parts. Parking It was an issue.
    Moving to The Shops at Rossmoor resolves all these problems. Because we already have a great relationship with them through the Taste for Los Al, we can start setting up on Thursday, and do take down on Sunday. And obviously there is far more foot traffic at The Shops at Rossmoor. EVERY vendor we have spoken with and almost every non-profit (with one exception) like the fact their business or cause should get better exposure.

    I understand the regret at our choosing a different location. But it is only a mile and a quarter south. Fun does not stop south of Bradbury. For some Los Al people — like those in the Rossmoor Highlands — the event site is actually closer.

    As for “Los Alamitos Sugar Beet Festival” — we have always pointedly not used that term (although I know some people have used it). When I first discussed the idea with then City Manager Angie Avery I was adamant that it be the Sugar Beet festival (sometimes the Orange County Sugar Beet festival like on Facebook when the one title wasn’t available). I did not want it to be perceived as just a single town event. To make it of real value to sponsors and vendors (who bottom line, pay the bills) as well as to participating non-profits, we had to appeal to the widest possible audience — which we defined as the sugar beet area — Long Beach to Santa Ana/Irvine, from Buena Park to Huntington Beach. Plus, once we obtained a title sponsor it became the Southland Credit Union Sugar Beet festival.

    Re: historical concerns — sugar beets were grown all over this area, including Rossmoor and Seal Beach. The Shops at Rossmoor was once the Watte farm where they grew tons of sugar beets.

    Re: finances. For the 2013 event, I’m confident we were revenue neutral for the city. We paid for security, hired our own traffic planning and barricade people, etc. There were some meetings with city staff, and perhaps they allocated money “against us” but I find it hard to believe our meetings resulted in the expenditure of any city money that wasn’t going to already be spent, even if we had never done the festival.
    HG cites articles that noted the organizers intent was:

    • …“…a celebration of local history … highlight nearby businesses, and feature food from local restaurants…”. (it was and still is, even more so)…
    • …and the people and groups that make the city an unbeatable place to live”. (I’ll take his word that it said city, I usually use the word “community” because I think of Los Al, Rossmoor and SB as a single community with three governments.
    • …And of course we were told about the connection with local non-profits. (It will still have just as much a connection with local non-profits — including those based in Los Alamitos.)
    • …our neighbors to the South will be the beneficiaries of any retail business related exposure and direct sales dollars. Runners still run through Los Alamitos, and a participating Los Alamitos business still benefits from exposure whether the event is in Old Town or at The Shops (probably more at the latter with its larger crowds) and the amount of direct sales dollars is minimal. Most businesses do it to help their community and to increase awareness of their product, or to set up appointments.


    What strikes me as strange are HG’s implications that Rossmoor and Seal Beach are not local. ?? I can stand at the corner of Bradbury and Los Al/SB Blvd and be in all three communities at once. Local to me is any business which is patronized or non-profit which is staffed by people from the greater Los Al (LAUSD) community (which includes parts of Cypress and East Long Beach), or which is hit on time and time again by local non-profits and local schools for donations.

    Yes, we used the term “Old Town Los Alamitos” a lot because that’s where the event was being held. We also added “which doesn’t exist anymore but we’ll re-create it.” We did, and we’ll recreate it at the Shops, hopefully even more than before.

    HG also sarcastically writes: “After all, how could one not want to “help the children.” I don’t mind someone disagreeing me, or pointing out my many flaws, but I do not appreciate words I never said being put in my mouth. I guarantee you I would never play the “help the children” card because I despise the way it is overused… by governments, by non-profits, by overly eager crusaders, and by school districts.

    HG makes some other incorrect presumptions and statements, including some about fees, with which I respectfully disagree. What is most disappointing is that I usually think his posts are well thought out and has an interesting take on things. In this case I wish he would have taken more time to confirm some information — and also contact Mr. Murphy on why he made his vote. (It may surprise you, but even I agree with his reasons.) But rather than belabor it here, I invite him to feel free to give me a call any time at (562) 522-6670 or write me at larrystrawther@gmail.com.

  3. Highlands Guy says:

    First, believe that I in no way meant to demean the effort or positive community effects of the Sugar Beet Festival by its organizers and backers. My intent was to express disappointment in Los Al losing what I thought was a really cool event, as well as an output of city dollars that should have been allocated to other underfunded city needs. I also understand the better logistics and exposure at the Shops. But I should note, that I kind of enjoyed the un-corporate, just a touch out-of-focus, feel of last year’s festivities. But, I’m weird that way.

    Re: finances for the 2013 festival. I admit that I do not have the facts, but it seems reasonable that there were some city expenses allocated to the event that were in excess of a “normal” afternoon in Old Town Los Alamitos. Additionally, I too think of the three entities as the community, but yes, I did see, “…make the city an unbeatable place to live.”

    And yes, I get that all of the communities are local. Every day, when I leave the hood, I probably pass over a spot that could probably be dubbed “three-corners” because it touches Los Al, Seal Beach, and Rossmoor. And that the homes of most LAUSD students probably are more reflective of “local” than anything else. And obviously that needs include the cities from which we pull inter-district transfer students.

    Yep, the sarcasm was intentional, but not meant in a mean-spirited way.

    Bottom line. Larry, I’m on your side. I may not always agree with you and/or how accomplish the goals, but I admire your ability to get stuff done for the betterment of the greater Los Alamitos community.

  4. Los Al Resident says:

    I just want to say that I will not be attending the festival in Seal Beach because I’m tired of having to go to other cities for everything! Yes, even if it’s just a mile away. I for once, as a resident of Los Al, want to have something we can call our own. Perhaps another festival that bears our name should take place. Every year. I feel like we are that kid whose friends would rather have all the play dates at their house because they have a swimming pool and we don’t.

  5. JM Ivler says:

    LAR, we can’t even find the money to hold a fireworks celebration every year, and we only pay a portion of that. People who are willing to pay $4.00 a day for a coffee at Starbucks go absolutely crazy if you were to ask them for $2.00 a day to make sure that their streets had no potholes, and a fireworks celebration, and… $1460 a year for a daily cup of joe, no problem, $730 a year for the common good? No way. It’s about priorities, and most people would rather spend the money on their cup of joe rather than something less tangible that will benefit all.

  6. Los Al Resident says:

    Mr. Ivler,

    Sad, but true. Right now, the only thing that draws crowds to the city is Race on the Base, and 4th of July firework show — all JFTB events.

    Aside from that, the only thing my neighbors and I can think of, to draw the community together, are block parties!! I need to find out if those are even legal, and if a permit required.

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