By Linda Harmon
It was a great autumn afternoon in Libbey Park as about 50 people gathered for one of those small-town moments complete with a tray of cupcakes and the Nordhoff brass quintet playing an upbeat “Blue Skies.” The crowd, which contained many strategic players in Libbey Bowl’s reconstruction, was assembled for a press conference celebrating the first milestone in the construction of the new bowl. The impressive foundation lies nestled under the trees beyond what was affectionately referred to as “Mount Libbey,” the dirt removed during the bowl’s excavation.
Mayor Steve Olsen called the occasion to order as representatives of the city, Libbey Bowl project staff, assorted fundraisers, and other project partners joined together to mark the occasion.
“It has been an honor to work with everyone who has been involved in this,” said Olsen as he turned the microphone over to Mike Culver, Public Works director.
Culver then walked the crowd through the completed steps of the project saying, “So far we are on time and on budget,” which brought loud applause from the audience.
Culver thanked all involved, the builder, project manager, and architect for the quality of their workmanship, and to the fundraisers who he said, “… raised the extra money, without which we wouldn’t be here.”
Culver said in the next few months people will begin to see “the arch above Libbey Bowl.” By Valentine’s Day the structure would be covered, and by Easter the seating should be installed.
“I personally tested the seats to make sure they were broad enough,” said Culver, getting a laugh. “If I can sit in them, anybody can.”
Esther Wachtell, president of the Ojai Festivals board of directors, then came to the podium.
“I almost got weepy listening to those talented musicians, the first musicians to play in the new Libbey Bowl,” said Wachtell. “This is really the bowl that Ojai built. Over 750 families contributed with an average donation of $250. That says how important this facility really is.”
Wachtell says her group has a lot planned for the upcoming months, even before the new bowl is completed. It will be inaugurated by “some of the biggest events Ojai has ever seen” including a gala on June 4 and “A Day of Music,” a free all-day musical event, on June 5.
“Alan Rains and his service club will be conducting ‘hard hat tours’ bi-monthly so people can see the progress,” said Wachtell. “And one Saturday a month community organizations will be invited to perform and watch the progress as the bowl starts to grow.”
Also mentioned was an art installation by Trimpin. An internationally acclaimed artist, Trimpin has exhibited temporary installations as part of past music festivals, either at Libbey Park or the Ojai Valley Museum.
“Trimpin has agreed to create a sound sculpture for us that donors will be able to purchase ticket opportunities for,” said Barbara Hirsch, who is in charge of the fund-raising. “We will be selling 100 tickets at $500 each with proceeds to benefit the bowl. He already has a concept for a sculpture that patrons can place either inside or outside.”
Ojai Festivals executive director Jeff Haydon and architect David Bury then further clarified what has already been accomplished along with the foundation, including the channels for the under-grounding of all electrical wiring, “so there will be no more tripping over cables,” and the increase of the height of the bowl by 6 feet, which will improve acoustics and the sound range.
With rebar outlining the cement footprint of where the new bowl is rising, the crowd used their imaginations to fill in the pieces. The afternoon provided a sneak peek at another landmark in the making, Ojai’s new Libbey Bowl.
To find out more go to libbeybowl.org