The return of the historical Venice sign that hung across Windward Avenue, a block from the entrance to Venice Beach, will be marked by a community celebration with live music, children’s activities and a dedication ceremony with local politicians and dignitaries.

“All these years we’ve been tearing things down; now we’re finally putting something back up,” says Venice historian Elayne Alexander.

The event, dubbed Venice Fest, is scheduled from noon to 9 p.m. Sunday, June 24th, at Windward and Pacific Avenues in Venice. Admission is free.

Venice Fest has been organized by the three groups responsible for maintaining the new sign — the Venice Chamber of Commerce, the Venice Community Trust and the Venice Sign Restoration Project.

Speakers at the event will include City of Los Angeles 11th District Councilman Bill Rosendahl and his Westside field deputy Mark Antonio Grant, Kendrick Kinney (grandson of Venice founder Abbot Kinney) and figurative artist Robert Graham, who will also, at the event, be dedicating his sculpture of a female torso that is now a permanent installation on the Windward Circle.

The effort to bring back the sign was spearheaded by local resident Todd von Hoffmann, who helped secure a $10,000 beautification grant from the City of Los Angeles for the project in 2004 and began the Venice Sign Restoration Project.

Von Hoffman estimates the total cost of the sign project to be roughly $20,000.

“Venice is an area that is rich in history,” says von Hoffman. “Every moment of Venice history has been filmed and photographed. You can see the beauty and grandeur of the original Venice and how little of it remains.

“It’s a natural conclusion, when people look at old postcards and say ‘let’s bring it back.'”

To the Venice Chamber of Commerce and fellow project organizers, what happened to the original Venice sign still remains a mystery.

“We haven’t discovered anyone who has any idea why or how it has come down. We’re hoping someone who was involved — maybe a contractor or someone from the city — will come forward and let us know the details on when and why it was taken down,” says von Hoffman.

The most current photograph of the original sign that those involved with the project have been able to discover is guessed to be from the late 1940s or early 1950s, reproduced in local historian Jeffrey Stanton’s book, Venice California — Coney Island of the Pacific.

What is known from historical photographs is that the sign was on hand for the grand opening celebration of Venice-of-America in 1905 and was part of Abbot Kinney’s original layout of the city.

Alexander hypothesizes that the removal of the original sign was related to the Kinney Company losing its lease of area lands, the City of Los Angeles, Venice’s consolidation into a part of the City of Los Angeles or efforts during World War II to utilize any available bits of scrap metal.

“When the Venice Pier closed down in 1947, it ripped the economic base from Venice,” says Alexander.

Recently, the Venice Chamber of Commerce and groups involved have sought advice from the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce and Hollywood Sign Trust, which restored and maintains the iconic Hollywood sign, trademarked it, and now collects hefty licensing fees for the use of its image.

The Venice Chamber and groups involved have been taking helpful cues from the Hollywood groups and plan to go the same route, says von Hoffman.

Local sign maker Kip Smith, whose company Heaven or Las Vegas, along with DesignTown USA, made the new Venice sign, has stated that his best guess is that the original sign was made out of painted aluminum and illuminated with Edison-style incandescent bulbs.

The new sign stays true to the concept of painted aluminum, with newer LED technology bulbs simulating the old.

The sign will be attached to two historical buildings on the north and south side of Windward Avenue. It will receive its electricity from the building on the south side, which is owned by Jose Bunge, and currently houses a Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf. On the north side the sign will be attached to the Venice Beach Hostel building, owned by Mark Wurm.

“I’m hoping that it is the start of a renaissance of Venice — I hope it causes people to put back the arches and colonnades, and to not tear down what they still have,” says Alexander, referring to the original Italian architecture of Venice.

At Venice Fest, the musical lineup throughout the day will include the Venice High School Marching Band at noon; Peter Goetz at 12:20 p.m.; Michael Jost at 12:50 p.m.; Kathy Leonardo at 1:10 p.m.; County Line at 2:10 p.m.; LA Boyz at 3:20 p.m.; Bella at 4:20 p.m.; Mark Lennon and the Brig Band at 5:10 p.m.; and the band Venice at 6:30 p.m.

Information, (310) 822-5425.

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