first_imgThe San Fernando Valley Fair will celebrate its 61st anniversary – in Santa Clarita. Continuing the surprisingly controversial saga of the agricultural and carnival show’s location, the fair board voted Friday to move its June exposition to Saugus Speedway. Citing long-running frustration with Los Angeles’ Department of Recreation and Parks, board members said they might consider the Santa Clarita Valley as its permanent location. “We have a place where people welcome us,” said fair President David Honda. “On the other end of the spectrum, we have a place where people want to abuse us.” Earlier this week, he threatened to cancel the exposition altogether after a plan to move from Hansen Dam to Woodley Park in Encino fell through. Fair organizers claim Rec and Parks reneged on a December agreement that would have allowed the move, forcing them to seek an alternative to Hansen Dam, which has hosted the fair for the past three years. Ron Berkowitz, superintendent for the department’s Valley operations, denied that the two parties had an agreement. The contract they signed in December, he said, was merely a letter of intent. And he claimed that fair organizers failed to respond to Encino residents’ concerns, necessitating the move back to Hansen Dam. The conflict made for an unusually bitter City Council meeting Friday. Though the council did not have the issue on its agenda and thus was legally prevented from discussing it, fair supporters and detractors turned out at Van Nuys City Hall in force to speak during the public-comment session. The pro-fair camp brought kids, a rabbit and stories about hot dogs and falling in love amid the exhibits. The anti-fair movement labeled the event a rock concert disguised as an agrarian exposition, filled with drunken partygoers and unwanted cars. “Serving alcohol? Not appropriate,” said Rosie Saenz, West Van Nuys/Lake Balboa Neighborhood Council board member. “Not in our neighborhood. We don’t want it, especially with the gang problems.” The back-and-forth dominated the session, stretching comments nearly an hour beyond the normally allotted time. Councilman Tony Cardenas, whom Honda blamed for setting conditions on the move to Woodley that would have caused it to fail, angrily rebutted the charges. He said organizers had been unresponsive to neighborhood complaints and blamed Honda and fair Chief Executive Officer Catherine Garcia. “The bottom line is, and you can quote me, the San Fernando Valley Fair doesn’t have a problem with where it can be in the San Fernando Valley,” Cardenas said. “The fair has a problem with David Honda and Ms. Garcia not being able to run it and market it properly.” Rather than canceling the show – which the board has threatened previously over undesired moves – organizers elected to take the fair out of the Valley once again. It left the area in 2003 for Castaic Lake, also in the Santa Clarita Valley, setting off yet another fight that led to the replacement of several board members and ultimately brought it back to Hansen Dam. “If we move, it may be permanent,” fair board member Dennis De Young said. “We may not come back to the Valley for many, many years. Hansen Dam is a death sentence. … Starting fresh somewhere else may be the shot in the arm that we need.” That was not the case in 2003, when attendance dropped by 1,000 guests, to 23,000, over the fair’s several-day run. It rebounded to 30,000 the next year at Hansen Dam, only to fall to 14,000 in 2006. Organizers noted that the Saugus Speedway’s Sunday swap meets typically draw 15,000 admissions in one day and hope to win those people over as fairgoers. “It looks like the winner is the Santa Clarita Valley,” Honda said. “This is a hard decision to make.” [email protected] (818) 713-3738160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!last_img read more