Del Mar makes history with warm welcome for conference guests

L-R, Tensia Moriel Trejo, Caryll Batt Dziedziak, Annie DuVal, Suzi Resnik.
L-R, Tensia Moriel Trejo, Caryll Batt Dziedziak, Annie DuVal, Suzi Resnik.
(Jon Clark)

Although Del Mar may be San Diego County’s smallest city, it recently made a big impact on dozens of historians from across the country. About 80 people recently visited Del Mar for the Southwest Oral History Association’s Annual Conference March 19-21.

“If you’re going to have a conference, you won’t find any place more enjoyable or scenic than Del Mar,” said Caryll Batt Dziedziak, president of the association. “When you think of a typical conference, you are usually in some sterile hotel banquet room and you don’t have a chance to go outside. This afforded all of us the opportunity to enjoy the community.”

A presentation during the Southwest Oral History Association conference at the Del Mar Powerhouse.
A presentation during the Southwest Oral History Association conference at the Del Mar Powerhouse.
(Jon Clark)

This year’s conference theme was “It Takes a Village: Building Community through Oral History.”

Sponsored by the Del Mar Historical Society, the three-day event brought people to multiple panels and workshops at several Del Mar sites, including Clarion Inn Del Mar Inn, Hotel Indigo Del Mar, L’Auberge Del Mar, Del Mar Library, The Winston School, St. Peters Episcopal Church and Powerhouse Community Center.

“It was a huge event for the historical society, but I think it was also very successful for Del Mar,” said Larry Brooks, president of the historical society. “The people loved Del Mar. They loved the restaurants, they loved the venues, they loved just walking around.”

Founded in 1981, the Southwest Oral History Association serves oral historians in Arizona, Southern California, Nevada, New Mexico and contiguous areas. Through publications, meetings, workshops and special events, the association supports and promotes oral history as a method for exploring and recording history, culture and current experiences in the Southwestern United States.

The Annual Conference is the association’s largest event, where members participate in panels and workshops, present awards and elect officers.

One of the highlights of this year’s conference was a speech by Dr. Paul Ortiz, president of the Oral History Association, Batt Dziedziak said.

Another highlight was the March 20 keynote addresses by Barbara and Joe Harper.

Joe Harper, president and CEO of the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club, talked about the Del Mar Racetrack’s significant place in Del Mar history, from its Hollywood connections to its influence on local culture.

Barbara Harper, founder of the Friends of the Powerhouse, talked about the organization’s work to preserve the city’s historical Powerhouse Community Center.

Built in 1928, the facility was once a functioning powerhouse that supplied heat and hot water to a nearby hotel. Thanks to more than $450,000 in donations from local residents and businesses, the building was renovated and opened as a community center in late 1999.

“The main goal has always been to save and restore this building,” she said. “It now serves the whole community, and that’s why it’s really great to see everybody here.”

This is the first time the conference has taken place in Del Mar.

Four representatives of the Del Mar Historical Society gave a 90-minute presentation on the society’s Oral History Project at last year’s conference in Tempe, Ariz. To date, the society has recorded the oral histories of roughly 20 notable residents, all of which are housed at the Del Mar Library.

Following the presentation by Annie DuVal, Rob Healey, Suzi Resnik and Tensia Trejo, members of the association wanted to experience Del Mar. The historical society made that happen.

“The people who are involved with the Del Mar Historical Society are just tremendous, energetic ambassadors for the Village of Del Mar,” said Marcie Gallo, first vice president of the association.

“The spirit of Del Mar has been tremendous. The people have gone above and beyond our expectations.”

For more about the Del Mar Historical Society, visit