To paraphrase the late singer Nat King Cole, the “lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer” are winding down.
But there’s still time to enjoy the sunny days and pleasantly cool nights before vacation time ends, and a coalition in Westchester has devised an event that the whole family can take part in at one of the community’s largest venues.
“Movie Under the Stars at Westchester Park” is the brainchild of Nate Kaplan, Los Angeles City Councilman Bill Rosendahl’s field deputy for Westchester, Playa del Rey and Playa Vista.
Kaplan’s idea was to devise an event that could bring community members and families together utilizing Westchester Park for a night of enjoying a family-oriented movie, popcorn and fun. He is pleased that the response to his plan and the support that it has generated happened so quickly.
“It’s a great feeling to know that everyone I work for in Westchester and Playa del Rey take so much care and have so much interest for their community that they were able to respond so quickly and with such enthusiasm,” Kaplan told The Argonaut.
The inaugural event is set for 7:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 3 at the park, 7000 Manchester Ave., Westchester. According to Kaplan, cartoons will be shown for half an hour, followed by a speech from Rosendahl and the movie, “The Parent Trap,” starring Lindsay Lohan.
Sponsors include the Westchester Vitalization Corporation, the Neighborhood Council of Westchester-Playa and the Westchester Park Advisory Board. Representatives of the Pacific Division of the Los Angeles Police Department are also scheduled to attend.
Scott Carni, a member of the advisory board, like Kaplan, sees the venture as a way to draw more people to the local recreation area.
“The primary focus is to get people to use the park,” Carni, a real estate agent in Westchester, said. “We thought this was a fantastic idea and it gives us a chance to reintroduce local residents to the park.”
“Absolutely,” he said. “If you take a walk around Westchester Park, you realize that we have a real asset here. We have ball fields, tennis and basketball courts, a heated swimming pool and expansive green space for picnics and relaxing.
“Councilman Rosendahl is looking forward to making even more improvements like building a skateboard park,” Kaplan added. “We are so fortunate to have access to such a pleasant and accessible location and ‘Movie Under the Stars’ will only add to this experience.”
An extensive renovation has taken place at Westchester Park over the last 18 months, including reconstruction of the facility’s parking lots, and a newly refurbished swimming pool opened earlier this month. In order to maintain the interest of local residents, it was imperative for the park to undergo a facelift, said Christina Davis, the president and CEO of the LAX Coastal Area Chamber of Commerce.
Playa Vista has opened new parks and recreation facilities approximately a mile away, well within distance to Westchester residents, and the planned community has extended an invitation to nearby communities to use them.
“There’s been an effort to upgrade the park and its facilities by the city and the park advisory board,” Davis said of the Westchester site. “It’s a beautiful park, but not many of our local residents have been using it in recent years.”
Carni, who was born and raised in Westchester, said the first weekend in September is an opportune occasion to host the movie night.
“I think a lot of families will be back from vacations because school will be starting very soon,” he noted. “So this is a good time to have an event like this.”
“The Parent Trap” is a remake of the 1961 Haley Mills classic about identical twins who switch identities in an effort to get their divorced parents back together.
The Neighborhood Council of Westchester-Playa donated $1,500 to the summer night venture at its Aug. 3 meeting. Cheryl Burnett, a member of the council, said the movie night has a tremendous amount of potential to bring together neighbors and residents from nearby Playa del Rey at the park to get to know each other and enjoy the last weeks of summer.
“It’s a fantastic idea, something that can really draw people who know each other as well as creating the possibility of meeting new people,” Burnett said. “I was happy that it was brought before us and I’m very happy to support it.”
Rosendahl, who represents Westchester, is proud of the work that his deputy has done in a short amount of time working in Westchester.
“This was Nate’s idea, and I think it’s great that the community really got behind this and ran with it,” he said. “They have had a wonderful sense of community in Westchester for a long time, so it’s no surprise that this really took off after it was proposed a few months ago.”
Burnett, who lives in Playa del Rey, thinks the concept could work at other locations in the council district as well.
“I think that Egret Park (in Playa del Rey near Del Rey Lagoon) would be a great site,” Burnett, a public relations specialist, said. “It could have the same effect of introducing people to how special Egret Park is and there’s plenty of picnic area.”
Davis, another locally born resident, would like to see a return of more Westchester residents to their local park.
“I can remember there were a lot of softball and baseball games played there,” she recalled. “I think (movie night) is a wonderful idea and I hope that it will get the local community to spend more time there.”
If the event is successful, Rosendahl said the movie event in the park could become a regular Westchester summertime feature.
“If there’s enthusiasm for it, it could become an annual event,” the councilman predicted.
Kaplan sees “Movie Under The Stars” having the effect of a nexus that could unify all sectors of Westchester and Playa del Rey, using what he believes is one of the area’s best assets.
“I hope this event becomes an opportunity for our many organizations, businesses, and community groups to come together. Westchester and Playa del Rey are both unique communities, with a lot of intelligent, driven people with a lot to offer to each other and to the world,” he said.
“I hope this evolves into an experience and opportunity for the residents and their families to meet and make new friends and relationships.”