The Coast News Group
Sylvia Zerbini, who created the human-equine show Liberté, shares a moment with some of her performers. Photo courtesy of James Coleman
Rancho Santa Fe Lead Story

All things Valitar have left the fairgrounds, except the tent

DEL MAR — With the exception of one gargantuan red tent — and four similar smaller ones — all things Valitar have been cleared from the Del Mar Fairgrounds. 

Liberté, a human-equine benefit show to help those left stranded last month when a similar production was canceled, raised approximately $58,000, enough to get the 26 horses, 21 adults, five children, one dog and one cat back to their respective homes.

Tim Fennell, fairgrounds executive director, said his staff “did their homework” after he was approached by Mark Remley in late spring to construct a 45,000-square-foot tent in the parking lot that would be used as the venue for Valitar, an equestrian-circus type show.

Fennell said at the Dec. 11 board meeting that due diligence is required before any new venture is allowed on the state-owned site.

He described Remley, a Rancho Santa Fe resident, as having strong references. The fairgrounds received $100,000 for use of the parking lot and a $30,000 nonrefundable security deposit upfront. The facility was also set to receive all parking revenues and 75 percent of concessions sales.

Premier Food Services, concessionaire at the fairgrounds, was given $50,000 in advance.

About 45 shows were scheduled between Nov. 16 and Dec. 31. In September, as the tent was going up, the Valitar director, along with most of the performers, left because of artistic differences with Remley and his wife Tatyana.

The husband and wife team of Sylvia Zerbini and Richie Waite were hired to take over. But after four performances, the Remleys removed their horses from the fairgrounds on Nov. 20.

Fennell said at 10 a.m. the next day he met with Mark Remley, who told him the show was canceled due to poor ticket sales.

“Mark told me he would sell the tent,” Fennell said, noting the five structures cost about $2.1 million.

Fennell said he learned later that day the performers hadn’t been paid and the lease on their housing was expiring the following week.

While the fairgrounds cared for the horses, at an estimated cost of about $3,000, the community reached out to the rest of the crew. Area residents and hotels offered free rooms.

Zerbini resurrected Liberté, a show she had been creating before the Remleys hired her, to raise money for the crew. About 1,600 tickets were sold for $35 to $100 for the Dec. 8 event.

Fennell said the fairgrounds stood to make about $75,000 to $100,000 had Valitar not been canceled.

“It’s unfortunate what happened, but we figured out how to make lemonade out of lemons,” he said.

Fennell is still in discussions with the fairgrounds attorney to determine what to do about the tents.

Director Fred Schenk said he has heard Fennell asking everyone he knows if they are interested in buying a 45,000-square-foot red tent.

Director Dave Watson said he offered it to Del Mar for possible use as City Hall.