|Photo by Robert A. Estremo
Monday, August 19, 2019
The Plaza in Orange
The first thing you need to know is to not call it “The Circle.”
The city of Orange covers a wide area, and there is a little something for everyone. From the fancy Orange Hill restaurant on a hill looking west to Signal Hill, to one of the finest Children’s Hospitals (CHOC) found anywhere. It is an eclectic mix of architecture, culture, dining experiences, education and citizenry.
The multi-cultural city has been celebrating its diversity long before multiculturalism became a thing, with shops and a celebration that belongs uniquely to Orange, all centered around a highway round-about. It lies where Chapman Avenue and Glassell meet in Old Town Orange, just blocks away from Chapman University and right in the heart of the county.
In fact, Old Town Orange comprises the largest National Register District in California. Approximately a square mile in size, it is made up of the Plaza, antique stores, homes and a railroad station… nearly 1200 buildings in all.
People from out of Orange call it “The Circle,” and if you do, the locals will know right away that you are not from Orange because it is properly called “The Orange Plaza.” In its center is a green park with a fountain and 75 foot flagpole that is open 24/7, 365 days a year. At Christmas it is decorated with a large tree and a classic Nativity scene: During other parts of the year you will find it seasonally decorated as well.
The biggest affair takes place over Labor Day Weekend, where all four spokes coming off the hub of the plaza (Chapman East, West, Glassell North and South) hold the International Street Fair. Each wing is equipped with a stage featuring acts celebrating each street theme by country. The Plaza is lined with booths offering crafts and art. The festival began in 1978.
Along with the entertainment, food booths feature mouth watering treats from all over the world, including Germany, France, the Netherlands, Mexico, Asia… the choices are too many for a single day, so the Festival lasts From Friday through Sunday (This year August 30 – September 1, 2019). The theme this year is… wait for it… “Circle the World.” Yes. Even Orange occasionally slips and calls it the Circle.
The Plaza itself goes all the way back to 1886 when Orange was one of the first cities to incorporate in Orange County. City founders thought the circular access would give the town a pleasing character, and they were right. The Plaza has been featured in many movies, including “Fallen Angel,” “Gumball Rally,” and “Monster in the Closet.”
And just to add one more event: Twice yearly the students of Chapman college hold an unofficial “Undie Run,” where about 2000 students tear off their outerwear down to their skivvies and run from the campus to the Plaza fountain.
Check out the plaza and the wonderful stores that surround it. The Orange Plaza area is an Orange County “Must See.”
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