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Independent Voice

Grillin’ & Chillin’ Gets New Leaders

Jun 24, 2024 04:08PM ● By Debra Dingman, photos by Debra Dingman
Grills get fired up for hotdogs, chili and other delectables at the downtown street fair.

DIXON, CA (MPG) - Downtown Dixon’s full-scale street fair, Grillin’ and Chillin,’ on Saturday June 29 from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. isn’t run by a well-paid executive and never has been but next week will mark its 14th annual event, thanks to the dedicated Dixon Action Team volunteers.

Started by long-time residents Mike Hamilton and Jill Orr in 2010, alongside a dozen Downtown Dixon Business Association’s dedicated volunteers, the popular party has stayed a rock-solid summer celebration since, with Hamilton and friends launching its own nonprofit, the Dixon Action Team shortly after.

Hamilton, who was raised in Dixon, was clearly the backbone with his many business contacts necessary to coordinate street closures, electrical power for vendors, and even security. He was also able to garner huge financial support from others who shared his vision to give back to the community.

“I didn’t make Grillin’ & Chillin;’ the team did it. I just had my experience I put into it,” said an unusually humble Hamilton. “I have to give kudos to the City of Dixon and the city workers because the council has always been behind it. We also have great, great, great sponsors. But when I had my [last] stroke, the doctor said ‘you gotta get some of this pressure off you or you’re not going to live. The stress is going to kill you.’  I had 100-plus calls the day before the event and the day of the event. I had almost 200 calls.”

Dixon Women's Improvement Club Park

 The Dixon Women’s Improvement Club Park will be filled with children’s activities and cool shade at the June 29 annual downtown street fair.

Hamilton met Allan and Meagan Nieto, a power couple with two children who moved to Dixon from Fairfield/Vacaville a few years ago. They visited at the local Denny’s where the Nietos caught Hamilton’s enthusiasm and signed on to be part of the Dixon Action Team and are now considered family by Hamilton.

“My wife and I are the same; we just get it done,” said Allan Nieto who had first experienced being a vendor at the event. “We’ve always been the type to take on a lot more than we should, but we always know we can make it happen so when Mike ended up in the hospital we said, ‘Mike, it’s time to let go a little.’”

But letting go for experienced leaders can be difficult.

“A lot of people do the talk but don’t do the walk,” Hamilton admitted about the event taking eight months of pre-planning, which is a lot for any volunteer.

Said longtime Dixon Action Team leader Leah Marlin “I know it’s been hard on Mike. I think it took a minute but he found good people. Allan and Meagan have the Dixon heart,”. “Mike has held meetings with them and filled them in and told them tricks of the trade and the dos and don’ts of having an event downtown. Plus, the team meets monthly and texts or calls each other all the time.”

And Allan Nieto said, “So now that we’re all in and we’re in the deep end of it, we’re seeing what Mike had to go through. I don’t think a lot of people realize how much goes on in pre-planning, and there is a whole lot to it, but once he went into the hospital, we told him, ‘Mike, you got to let us take this one.’  We’ve thrown smaller events ourselves and this one is obviously a lot more complex, and we’ve had to overcome a lot of hurdles…”

The team has all their own areas that they excel in now, including Marlin handling the nonprofits in the park, the car show run by Rich and Janette Barrango who were part of the original team, Meagan and Allan Neito handling the crafters, food and rib cook-off and the Dixon Leon Soccer parents handling the kids’ park and the beer booth.

“When you have enough helpers, the whole event gets better,” said Marlin. “When you have a smaller or one specific area to control and plenty of help, you can take it to new heights. Mike should be proud because he started it and he trained Meagan and Allan and me and it will carry on because of them.”

“Handing over the vision was simple because the two people we handed it over to had the same vision of helping the vets and the kids, which was our vision since day one and they will carry the torch,” said a relaxed-sounding Hamilton. “I’m going to go down there and sit on my butt and drink a beer and have a plate of ribs and not worry about anything else, just be the retired old dog. I think I’ll step back and say wow!”

Grillin' & Chillin'

 Grillin’ & Chillin’ brings 60-plus dynamic displays of cars and trucks.