Fiesta La Ballona celebrates local culture with music, food and family fun

By Danny Karel

Led Zeppelin tribute Lady Zep rocks Veterans Park on Saturday

Culver City’s biggest community party of the year stages an entire weekend of family-friendly fun at Veterans Park. The annual Fiesta La Ballona features carnival rides and games, a petting zoo, dozens of food trucks, a beer-and-wine garden, more than two outdoor concert performances, and even an aquacade at The Culver City Municipal Plunge. The festival is free to attend, but carnival rides require a $30 wristband.

The event kicks off at 4:30 p.m. Friday with a performance by “yacht rock” band Harbor Party, self-described as a “ragtag group of sailors, pirates and tourists in paradise.” The Culver City High School Marching Band and a cappella group The Santa Monica Oceanaires are also among the evening’s concert bill.

Festivities resume at 10 a.m. Saturday, with the schedule for Day 2 featuring Louisiana-flavored eight-piece brass ensemble The Mudbug Brass Band at 4 p.m., all-female Led Zeppelin tribute band Lady Zep at 6 p.m., followed at 8 p.m. by BUMPTOWN, a rollicking dance, funk, Latin and rock group known for getting audiences up on their feet.

Sunday’s lineup includes a noon performance by Jessica Fichot, a Parisian chanteuse with Asian jazz influences and a 4 p.m. set by Irish rock-folk band Paddy’s Pig. Closing things down from 6 to 7 p.m. is the Kingston Ska Collective, a seven-piece Jamaican ska band.

Throughout the festival, more than 100 vendor booths feature community groups and artisan wares, and more than 30 food booths or trucks are serving everything from Brazilian pastries to Indonesian satay, lobster rolls, funnel cakes, mini donuts and decadent nachos.

The inaugural outing in 1951 — then called “Fiesta La Ballona Days” — was a week-long celebration that honored the region’s earliest settlers, and many participants dressed up in ranchero, cowboy, cowgirl, and Native American Indian costumes. Fiesta La Ballona has evolved over the years, but the spirit of cultural appreciation is still central to the modern-day event.

Fiesta La Ballona happens Friday through Sunday (Aug. 23, 24 and 25) in Veterans Park, 4117 Overland Ave., Culver City. Free admission; ride wristbands are $30. See a full schedule at fiestalaballona.org.

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