When I arrived at the L.A. County Arboretum around 5:20 on Sept. 23, I was a little apprehensive about my decision to attend the Arcadia Chamber of Commerce’s Taste of Arcadia.
Already, the main parking lot was full and there was a long line of people waiting for the gate to be opened at 5:30.
Generally, I don’t like large crowds and long lines.
But it turned out to be a great evening.
After parking on the other side of Baldwin Avenue in a Santa Anita Racetrack lot and walking up to get in line, the first people I ran into were longtime friends Gary and Barbara Kovacic. So things were already looking up. Gary, of course, is the longtime Arcadia city councilman and frequently serves as mayor.
Also arriving about the same time were Mayor Mickey Segal and his wife Lee. They parked in a reserved spot up front. It must pay to be the current mayor.
After picking up my ticket and going through the gate, I was soon facing more long lines, as people were gathered in front of the booths in the main area to taste the food from some of the participating local restaurants.
I decided to head to the back area, which was much less crowded. Good move on my part. There I got an up-close look at a collection of classic cars on display and great tri-tip at the Matt Denny’s booth, plus a cold Stella draft beer.
I told owner Matt McSweeney he picked a good spot for his booth, away from the masses. “That’s why I asked for this location,” he said.
Another plus about this area was a TV set which was showing the Monday night game between the Denver Broncos, my favorite team, and the dreadful Oakland Raiders, my least favorite.
As a sportswriter for the L.A. Times during the Raiders’ tenure here, I had to deal with the late owner, Al Davis, which was enough to make me a Raider hater.
The Raiders were in the process of losing the game to the Broncos, another plus.
The TV set was provided by State Farm and was being raffled off. This was a great idea, and I wanted to congratulate someone. A man sitting next to the TV looked official, so I introduced myself. He was a State Farm agent from Upland, Rick Reed, who at the time was filling in for local agent T.G. Metzger.
I discovered Reed was a friend of my former boss, Bill Dwyre, the longtime sports editor of the Times. Reed and I had a nice chat.
I ran into a number of friends in this area, including Santa Anita’s Pete Seberell and, again, the Kovacics.
I also spotted Patrick Dolphin, a friend from the gym where I work out, the Arcadia Sports Fitness Club. As I suspected, Patrick’s company, Dolphin Event Services, had erected the 46 tents that dotted the Arboretum grounds, plus the stage where an eight-piece band played.
Patrick was with his business manager, Errol Simonitsch, and they talked about the project of setting everything up. Patrick also told me about the history of his company, which has been in his family since 1941 and has focused on supplying party equipment since 1970. A crew of 15 men had worked front from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday and then came back to finish up on Monday prior to the event.
What? You thought those tents just automatically appeared?
It was good to see Patrick and meet Errol. And I ended up running in a number of friends throughout the evening, including Sonia Rose, Edie Ramirez, Fred Trout, Tony Lugo and many more.
Not everything was perfect. Some lights went out momentarily when a generator ran out of gas. I couldn’t find a place to use one of my drink tickets for a good glass of wine. I had bought five tickets for $20, used one, gave three away and had one left over. Anyone want to buy a drink ticket at a bargain price?But all in all, the event left a good taste in my mouth. I’ll definitely come again next year. And maybe I can even convince my wife to come along.