VEnice2By Joe Piasecki

The ceremonial lighting of Windward Avenue’s iconic Venice sign officially becomes tradition on Friday, when residents will once again gather to celebrate the seasonal color change to red and green.
Academy Award-winning actress Angelica Huston, a Venice resident, and Los Angeles City Councilman Mike Bonin are set to flip the switch at 8 p.m., Venice Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Donna Lasman said.
Event producer Daniel Samakow, owner of the Canal Club and Danny’s Venice, said the event that debuted last December is about much more than a sign.
“One hand, it’s our way of saying happy holidays to the world. On the other, it’s a place and time when Venice comes together,” Samakow said.
The original Venice sign was put up by Venice patriarch Abbot Kinney in 1906 as a way to show off the day’s hottest new technology — electric lights. But by the 1950s, the sign was removed for unknown reasons and lost to history.
In 2007, residents banned together to create a near-exact replica of the original, down it each of its 87 light bulbs. The holiday sign lighting occurs when white bulbs are changed out for ones that are red and green.
“The Venice sign was the beginning of the revitalization of Windward, the historic center of Venice,” Samakow said. “Last year, the idea came that it could be more than just an historic symbol.”
Block party festivities featuring the Venice Symphony Orchestra begin on Windward at 6 p.m., followed by a 7:45 p.m. pre-lighting ceremony with Huston and Bonin.
Event organizers will also be collecting new, unwrapped toys for the annual Muscle Beach Toy Drive, which takes place from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at the Venice Recreation Center, 1800 Ocean Front Walk.
Visitors who bring a toy will receive a wristband good for discounts at various local businesses, Lasman said.
“The Venice Sign Lighting represents a spirit of true collaboration within the Venice community, where businesses, community organizations, residents and travelers all join together in celebration,” Lasman said. “We had thousands of people last year, and we expect it to keep getting bigger.”