Posted on 11 May 2013 by La Habra Journal
By Daniel Hernandez
La Habra Journal
Thousands of local residents gathered on La Habra Boulevard last week to celebrate an important agricultural era in the past time of the city.
And though the region’s economics no longer depends on the harvesting of oranges and lemons, the La Habra Area Chamber of Commerce, observing the dawn of a new age, dubbed its festivities the Citrus Fair.
“The more people know about our history, the more pride and ownership they’ll take in the community itself,” said Mark Sturdevant, La Habra Area Chamber of Commerce president.
While not native to Southern California soil, in the late nineteenth century, citrus fruits made its way to farmers in the state, creating a different type of gold rush, according to the California Citrus State Historic Park website.
The historic park — established to preserve the history of the vanishing citrus cultural landscape — affirms that the United States Department of Agriculture sent two small navel orange trees in 1873 to Riverside resident Eliza Tibbets.
Flourishing in the rich California soil and ideal winter climate, word of the navel oranges spread and the agricultural community soon came to fruition, the website explains.
Taking advantage of this new discovery, the La Habra community in the late nineteenth century excelled at growing citrus as well as avocado and walnuts.
“It really wasn’t until the agriculture started where the strong record of commerce and the sense of community started to develop,” Sturdevant said about why the chamber celebrates the areas citrus past time. “As the population started to grow, it grew around the citrus industry.”
Although Sturdevant admits the fair should increase its efforts in promoting the history more, the La Habra Historical Museum, located within the fair grounds, displayed an exhibit during the fair commemorating its citrus past.
Visitors learned the practices of local farmers and were able to view artifacts that aided them in producing the products.
History aside, the fair also exhibited a load of fun with rides ranging from the relaxing Ferris wheel to the stress-inducing Zipper.
“I love the feeling. It’s scary but it’s fun,” Liz Castillo said about the Zipper.
Castillo, a Whittier resident, rode the Zipper alone while her husband and daughter watched as the ride flipped her around and upside down while rotating.
However, Kelsey Farrell, 2013 Miss La Habra, said she might cry if forced to partake in a frightening ride that rattles her senses.
“That is very scary, and I would not go on that,” Farrell said, who only rode the slow moving little kid bear ride along side Ashley Aguirre, 2013 Miss La Habra Princess.
Farrell and Aguirre, dawning their crowns and sashes, were available for pictures and chatting at the fair, standing along side the Lion’s Club booth.
The fair sustained no surprising dramatic events, and the celebration was a “technical success,” Sturdevant said.
“Everything moved along according to plan,” he said.
Businesses along La Habra Boulevard took front row at witnessing the fair, but Sturdevant maintains that no companies complained about the street shutting down.
In fact, the chamber hopes businesses along the closed off street took advantage of the estimated 30,000 to 35,000 people who congregated the area.
“It’s rare that they would ever have, at any given time, a few thousand people standing out in front of their business,” Sturdevant said. “It’s a good opportunity to gain exposure that they would have not otherwise received.”
Revenue from the proceeds of the fair remained unavailable the week after the fair, but ticket prices for rides sold at a somewhat steep price.
Patrons at the fair either paid $1 for one ticket or $20 for 22 tickets or $35 for 45 tickets, while rides demanded anywhere from three to six tickets.
Also fair goers had the opportunity to play at an assortment of game booths, ranging from dart throwing to basketball shooting.
While the fair was a technical success this spring, Sturdevant said the chamber plans to improve the fair in the future by increasing the size of its petting zoo and offering more platforms to learn about the history of La Habra.
However, if fair visitors wondered about the absence of alcohol, the chamber has no plans to sell the spirits at the Citrus Fair.
Created as a family event, the developers of the fair do not want to invite any problems that alcohol might create, the president of the Chamber maintained.
Yet an enjoyable evening at the fair, sitting beneath the California sunset, listening to live music while remembering a past that flourished from the citrus industry, was an escape for many from their hard working laborious lifestyle, one that many citrus farmers endured to help create the community of La Habra.