I’ve been back in Newport Beach for just about two weeks now, and the city threw me a little welcoming ceremony shown above that was most kind. Ah, shucks. Heh. In seriousness, today was the unveiling of the long-anticipated McFadden Square Centennial Legacy Project. If you want to learn a bit more about Newport Beach, the McFadden Wharf, how it became McFadden Square and the disappointing monument they unveiled today, well, read on!
Back around 1875, two brothers — the McFadden brothers — bought a wharf landing on the Balboa Peninsula. The goal was to produce the area into a major shipping port, but for various reasons, that never happened. For more history, check out this page.
Instead, the area turned into a tourist destination. McFadden Square sits at the base of the Newport Pier, once the site of the wharf itself. If it’s square-like, it’s hard to see that. Instead, it’s sort of a sprawling open area between the pier and the nearby shops, where you can sit or dodge the rollerbladers and bicyclers (who are supposed to walk their bikes, but no one does). My The Piers Of Newport Beach Vs. The Pier Of The OC talks a bit more about this area, where is also a good place to spot the Birdman:
I was thrilled to hear last year that the square was being redeveloped. Apparently it’s the 100th anniversary of something related to the area (exactly what is unclear to me, and the centennial site isn’t a great help).
The artist illustration of what was to come looked cool. A big golden ball in the middle of a bunch of stone benches, large walking areas and so on. Nice, the area could use that type of facelift!
Today was the unveiling of the monument in the center of the plaza. Free donuts! That was cool, but I resisted. Aside from that, it was a lot of long-winded speeches along with what seemed a lot of old pompous Newport.
OK, there were a lot of people who clearly love Newport and feel good to be adding to the history and recognition of the area. But where were the surfers? Where were the beach people? The lifeguards? Hell, the police who keep order? The business people who run the shops that the area revolves around. Why the hell was the Birdman out on the periphery when he himself is a living monument in the area?
I wanted a fun ceremony — music, balloons flying in the air, no speeches and no VIP check-in area (seriously, VIP check-in?). Instead, lots of speeches. On and on. And then two guys jerking the tarp off the top of the monument, and that’s it. All done. So quick I couldn’t even snap a shot off. But here’s the ball all covered up (look behind the California flag):
And the monument? Where was that golden ball I was promised in the picture? Hell, how about one of those giant marble balls that float on water that the kids can push. Nope, nothing like that. Instead, I got a ball that looks like it was ordered by committee:
The artist, Hank Kaminsky, was at the ceremony, and it was discussed how much time he spent getting to know Newport. Then apparently, all of it was rendered into this green ball that doesn’t feel inspirational at all. I mean look at this shot:
About 1/4 of the top of the ball is taken up by these lines:
Remembering the Past
Acknowledging the Present
Looking Toward the Future
Really, “Acknowledging the Present?” What’s that mean? “Hello, Present — glad to acknowledge you’re in attendance today.”
I suppose if you don’t know the area, you might find it cool to read about all the history stuff on it, some of which is nicely rendered. But I guess I’d have rather had the historical events depicted “off ball” with the orb itself uncluttered and — well, I thought the golden ball was a good idea.
Here are a few more shots of the ball:
What I liked far more is the plaza the ball sits in. There are squares with footprints:
That lead to various events in Newport’s history:
Like I said, maybe it would have been nicer for the events themselves to have been illustrated on the ground in the plaza, rather than up on the ball.
We’ll see how the area takes to it. It’s nice to have something, and the kids in the crowd did gather around. And later in the evening, more people were wandering and looking too.
For more, the Daily Pilot has a nice video of the unveiling (prefaced by a commercial for the Newport Harbor Nautical Museum and how it asks you to “imagine” how great it would be if it wiped out the Newport Beach Funzone — a rant for a later date). You can watch it here: