They came to the Verizon Wireless Amphitheater in Irvine as early as 1 a.m. Saturday, prepared to wait for hours in a line more than 1,000 cars long.
Not for Prince, U2 or Beyonce.
Under a program sponsored by the South Coast Air Quality Management District, they came to exchange their noisy, fume-spewing, gasoline-powered lawnmowers for quiet, environmentally sensitive, cordless electric models worth $400.
For The Record
Los Angeles Times Thursday May 27, 2004 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 2 inches; 82 words Type of Material: Correction
Lawn mower emissions -- An article in some editions of Sunday's California section about a South Coast Air Quality Management District program to exchange gasoline-powered lawnmowers for electric models incorrectly described the potential effect. The article said the exchange of 4,000 mowers could reduce hydrocarbon emissions by nearly 20 tons a year -- or what 43 new cars, driven 12,000 miles each, would emit. In fact, 20 tons is the amount of pollution emitted by 172,000 cars driven 12,000 miles a year.
They brought Toro, Craftsman, Briggs & Stratton and McLane mowers in car trunks and in the backs of pickup trucks and SUVs.
Some trade-ins were rusty carcasses -- even antique reel mowers with engines atop the blades -- and some were as clean as the day they left Sears or Home Depot.
The AQMD's offer was for each mower owner to bring in a working gas model and trade it and $100 for a Neuton electric mower with cutting power equal to a 5-horsepower gas model.
Wayne and Connie Stahnkey of Huntington Beach brought their 10-year-old Lawnboy after hearing about the program on the radio.
Connie Stahnkey said she usually does the lawn. "I like the exercise and the suntan," she said. The gasoline, however, is a big turnoff. "I don't want the smell on me, and then it's a hassle to get gas. Electric? Rechargeable? Works for me," she said.
Ronald Barron of Irvine got in line at 5 a.m. to swap his 8-year-old Craftsman for the Neuton.
"I won't have to spend money on gas anymore, and it's much quieter," so he can stop worrying about disturbing his neighbors early on weekends. "I can go out there any time now," he said.
AQMD officials exchanged 1,300 mowers on a first-come, first-served basis at the amphitheater in about four hours. The Irvine event was the third of four planned this year. An additional 1,000 electric mowers will be offered at Hollywood Park on June 12. The program is a repeat of one last year.
Workers from Pick Your Part, an Anaheim-based salvage yard, unloaded the mowers, started one up occasionally to make sure they weren't junk, and then cut wires and control cords.
Another worker used a hydraulic cutting tool to snip the handles off.
The handles, clipping bags, and the mowers themselves were tossed into separate 40-foot trash containers. Officials said they expected to fill seven containers -- six for mowers and handles and one for bags.
Cynthia Verdugo-Peralta, an AQMD board member, said the agency picked up 75% of the tab for the exchange, budgeting $820,000 for this year's program. The balance was made up by the $100 payments of individuals taking part in the exchange.
Officials estimate that this year's exchange of 4,000 mowers could reduce hydrocarbon emissions by nearly 20 tons a year -- or what 43 new cars, driven 12,000 miles each, would emit.