Honoring those who sacrificed for our county and country

By JENNIFER MUIR BEUTHIN, Contributing Columnist

The Orange County Fair opens today—this year with some new educational opportunities that highlight the roles of the working men and women who helped build our great county and country.

For the first time ever, an interactive memorial for Orange County farmworkers will be open to the public during the fair. The memorial, entitled “Table of Dignity,” symbolizes the dignity of work and celebrates the agricultural history of our community.

Streets and parks and schools across Orange County are named after real estate developers and their family members, but not the workers who actually grew the food that fed our nation and with their hard work built much of the O.C. we know today. This memorial finally recognizes farm workers for their significant contributions in propelling Orange County’s growth—contributions made possible by untold or forgotten sacrifices under often deplorable conditions.

The Table of Dignity features a strong, sturdy table atop a large boulder, sitting between two portals made of rammed earth. Grapevines winding along a pergola and seats made of rammed earth provide a space for visitors to reflect. Plaques provide information about the history of farm workers in our county, including the story of the 1936 Citrus Strike.

That year, thousands of primarily Mexican citrus workers in Anaheim stood together for higher wages and the right to unionize. But citrus farmers and the political establishment violently suppressed their efforts, condoning armed vigilantes and guards who brutalized the workers.

A dedication ceremony for the memorial is scheduled Aug. 25.

The “Table of Dignity” is part of an educational complex within the fairgrounds that includes Centennial Farms and also the newly built Heroes Hall, a museum honoring our nation’s heroes and their contributions to Orange County.

Heroes Hall will also be open and free to the public for the first time during this year’s fair.

The brainchild of the Orange County Fairgrounds Board of Directors, including Marine Corps veteran Nick Berardino, the museum emerged from a renovated building that was once a barracks when the fairgrounds was home to the Santa Ana Army Airbase. Organizations across the community donated money to support the fairgrounds’ investment, including several labor unions and elected officials. And the renovation was performed by skilled union workers — some of whom were veterans themselves — who took great care with every detail.

The museum includes a sobering exhibit featuring items carried by soldiers during the Vietnam War. Upstairs is an incredible history of the Santa Ana airbase.

Children and families visiting the fair will also have an opportunity to send a written message to a military person serving oversees at a booth at the museum.

So as all of us enjoy the food, the entertainment, the rides, the community that comes together at the Fairgrounds this year, visiting Heroes Hall and the Table of Dignity are two great opportunities to pay respect to those whose work and sacrifices made our privilege to enjoy all the fun possible.

Jennifer Muir Beuthin is general manager of the Orange County Employees Association.

Publication Date: July 14, 2017