The Crowd: Irrelevant Week returns to Newport Beach with gala, beach party

Irrelevant Week XLI, the long-standing and long-running brainchild of founder and Newport Beach icon Paul Salata, annually honors the so-called “lowsman” of the NFL Draft. This year was no exception, as it furthered its basic underlying purpose of recognizing and saluting the underdog in 2016.

Kalan Reed, selected as 253rd in the draft, arrived in Newport Beach at the invitation of the Irrelevant Week crew. He was crowned Mr. Irrelevant XLI. Reed will try out with the Tennessee Titans as a defensive back in the fall. He played college football at the University of Southern Mississippi.

The athlete at the bottom of the draft was treated like a first pick at the annual All-Star Lowsman Trophy Banquet, held recently at the Marriott Hotel and Spa in Newport. ESPN’s John Ireland served as master of ceremonies for the sold-out dinner, which also featured guest appearances by well-known sports agent Leigh Steinberg, NFL Super Bowl winner and actor Matt Willig, former Rams defensive back Brett Faryniarz and Emmy-Award winning NFL producer A.J. Pierce.

Pierce, who also delivered a letter of congrats and encouragement to Kalan from NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, awarded the lowsman with an NFL watch.

Kalan Reed, the final pick (#253) of the 2016 NFL Draft, was in Newport Beach to be crowned Mr. Irrelevant XLI. (Courtesy of Melanie Salata Fitch)

Melanie Salata Fitch, daughter of Paul and the late Beverly Salata, has taken the lead with her dad in heading up the Irrelevant Week cause. Salata Fitch inaugurated an award in her dad’s honor, fittingly labeled the Paul Salata Award with a subheading of “Hero Beyond the Hashmarks.”

The perpetual trophy will be awarded each year to an individual in the community “who mirrors the attributes of my father in going above and beyond in giving, mentoring, leading and being an all-around ‘good guy,'” said Salata Fitch. She also shared that the idea originated with Goodell, who assisted in the development of the trophy. It resembles the crystal football, the Vince Lombardi Trophy, presented to the winning Super Bowl team.

The inaugural 2016 Paul Salata Award was decided upon by a local committee and delivered to Corona del Mar track and field coach Bill Summer.

This year there was even more community outreach, again aimed at lifting the underdog, the less visible and less fortunate. In addition to the week-long series of Irrelevant parties — which always includes events like a 5K scenic run and pub crawl — organizers sponsored a beach party on the sand at 30th Street in Newport.

Coach Bill Summer receives the inaugural Paul Salata Award

Melanie Salata Fitch, Coach Bill Summer and Paul Salata. Summer receive the inaugural Paul Salata Award. (Courtesy of Melanie Salata Fitch)

The invited guests were not community leaders and famous sports figures. Instead, Kalan was surrounded by the families of two local nonprofits: Serving People In Need (SPIN) and the Orange County Youth Sports Foundation (OCYSF).

Salata Fitch and her volunteer committee enlisted the assistance of the National League of Young Men to oversee the massive beach party and barbecue. Participants enjoyed a casual, carefree day on the Newport sand.

They arrived to be showered with beach towels, toys and more, as the National League guys prepared and served both breakfast and lunch during the daylong festivities that included a full array of beach games.

In 2016 alone, the Irrelevant Week folks have donated more than $85,000 to charities that include SPIN and OCYSF. Major support for Irrelevant Week and its offshoots comes from the generosity of citizens like Parker Kennedy of First American Title, Rayna Elmendorf, Ron Salisbury, the Frome Foundation, the Donner Family, Fitch Family, Hartunian Family, Kang Family and Rados Family.

Young family at the beach

The Young family playing in the sand at the SPIN beach party, sponsored in part by Irrelevant Week and supported by the National League of Young Men. (Courtesy of Kim Frazier)

Jean Wegener, executive director of SPIN, and Kim Frazier, SPIN’s special events director, were on hand to show appreciation for the support from Irrelevant Week. Frazier commented, “The families from SPIN were so grateful for the day at the beach, especially on behalf of their children. The high school guys helping were fabulous, passing out hot dogs, chips and drinks. It was just a day of laughter and pure escape for families that struggle day to day.”

Guidestar recently awarded SPIN its highest platinum rating. The nonprofit deals with homelessness and is among a select few agencies nationwide to be termed an early adopter. Wegener and Frazier are in the planning stages for SPIN’s annual gala dinner event, slated for Oct. 22 in South Coast Plaza’s Jewel Court.

Major talent for the event has been confirmed, with Josh Kaufman from NBC’s “The Voice” headlining with his band alongside R&B artist Macy Gray. This year’s coming event follows the phenomenal breakout gala for SPIN produced by philanthropists Elizabeth An and Soogie Kang. It was last year held at AnQi and raised the financial bar for SPIN.

To learn more about Irrelevant Week go to irrelevantweek.com. SPIN can be accessed at spinoc.org.