The Coast News Group
David Brand, left, congratulates Duane Ward on his purchase of the enormous Valitar tent. The two volleyed back and forth for the item about a half a dozen times before Ward outbid him with an $85,000 offer. Photo by Bianca Kaplanek

Valitar tent, all other show equipment liquidated in auction

DEL MAR — The gigantic red tent that has infamously graced a large section of the Del Mar Fairgrounds parking lot for more than four months will soon be gone. 

The 45,000-square-foot structure, valued at approximately $1.3 million, sold for $85,000 at a Jan. 29 bankruptcy auction.

Although there were no minimum bids on any items during the two-and-a-half-hour event, auctioneer Jeff Bloom, from Fischer Auction Company, tried to kick things off with $200,000 but there were no takers.

Someone finally shouted $55,000 and bids inched up from there until it came down to two potential buyers.

Duane Ward, who works in the event industry in Orange County, beat out David Brand, who planned to ship the tent to Arizona.

“I think it’s great,” Ward said of his purchase price of $85,000.

His immediate goal is to get the structure out of the parking lot within the required 10 days. After that he plans to sell the tent for about half its original price tag.

“There are a lot of viable options,” he said. “I don’t have a solid plan. It could go to a church.”

Ward must pay to dismantle and remove the structure. David Brand, who was bidding against him, said he received an estimate of $250,000 for the job.

A stable tent went for $57,500, while one used by performers sold for $23,000. The concession and VIP tents took in $24,000 and $15,000, respectively, and someone bought all five entrance tents for $1,500 each.

Other items auctioned off included everything from feed buckets, wheelbarrows and horse stalls to furniture, fire extinguishers and floor mats. Even the performance sand, which is treated to minimize dust, was up for grabs.

The everything-must-go event attracted 93 bidders to the tent, where the auction was held, and another 91 watched and participated online. It took in about $300,000, which will be turned over to a bankruptcy court to pay off creditors of Equustria Development Inc.

That’s the company created by Mark Remley to produce Valitar, a horse-and-human acrobatics extravaganza for which the elaborate tent facility was built.

Originally planned to run 50 shows in Del Mar from Nov. 16 to Dec. 31 before heading out on a 10-month, five city U.S. tour, Valitar was unexpectedly canceled after only four public performances because of poor ticket sales.

Equustria Development filed for bankruptcy in mid-December, and the company is now being sued for millions by vendors and former employees who claim they weren’t paid.

The fairgrounds received $100,000 upfront from Equustria for use of the parking lot, as well as all parking revenue and75 percent of gross concession sales for the four performances that did take place.

The fairgrounds housed and cared for the show’s horses until a benefit performance was held to fund travel expenses so the animals and their owners could return to their homes.

Fairgrounds manager Tim Fennell, as well as the site’s attorney, were on hand for the auction. Fennell was a successful bidder for one of the smaller tents and a few other items for the fairgrounds Linda Zweig, the facility’s media relations director, said.