By Michael Aushenker
Imagine you’re standing in front of the Brig in Venice, you look west toward Main Street and all you can see is a sea of people extending down Abbot Kinney Boulevard for as far as the eye can see.
Come this weekend, you won’t have to imagine it. Reality hits on Sunday, Sept. 29 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. when the Abbot Kinney Festival returns for its 29th year.
If you live on the Westside, you likely know that the last Sunday of September sees the return of this revered local tradition since 1984; a day-long celebration packed with live music, food stands, art kiosks and about 150,000 neighbors and visitors – young singles, older folks and families alike.
Organized and produced by the Abbot Kinney Festival Association (AKFA), a nonprofit organization with the sole goal of raising funds through the festival to reinvest back into the Venice community, the Abbot Kinney Festival has become a leading promoter of the beachside enclave’s uniqueness and creativity. According to the association, more than $275,000 in proceeds has been invested into the community.
In addition, there is the association’s Spirit of Venice Awards, handed out to individuals in creative and athletic fields as well as civic leaders. This year’s honorees: (posthumous) former Venice Boys & Girls Club Youth of the Year Oscar Duncan, Michael “Rocky” Stenger, Carol Tantau of Just Tantau and the Venice Sign on Windward Avenue. The “Spirit of Venice” ceremony will take place at 2 p.m. at the Andalusia stage.
Past recipients have included Lynn Warshafsky and Jim Hubbard of Venice Arts; artists Tibor Jankay and Earl Newman; poet Fred Dewey of Beyond Baroque; Electric Lodge founder Joel Shapiro; pro skateboarder and Dogtown skate park co-founder Jesse Martinez; community advocates Betsy Goldman, Ivan Spiegel, and Diane Bush; and retired LAFD Inspector Mike Neeley and LAPD senior lead officer Heidi Llanes.
Also featured is a Kids Quad, on Westminster Avenue Elementary School’s campus at 1010 Abbot Kinney Blvd., which will include a pavilion where families can dance and sing along to children’s music, play games and create art. Activities planned at the quad for this year will include creating healthy snacks with Chef Gino, children’s gardening by Little Saplings, jewelry-making and tutu-crafting sessions, petting zoos and pony rides. A designated Tot Lot will feature specialized programming and activities for the festival’s youngest visitors.
Indirectly, the festival celebrates the legacy of Venice founding father and architect Abbot Kinney. The New Jersey-born developer had a passion for arts and culture that he tried to express in his Venice of America project, a recreation of Venice, Italy set in Los Angeles. Opened on July 4, 1905, Venice, Calif. (which did not become a part of Los Angeles until 1925) featured a system of circular driveways, gazebos and gondola-ready canals to emulate the Italian city, but, moreover, it reflected Kinney’s hunger for a major cultural Mecca.
Kinney might have been proud to witness today’s Venice, which has become the epicenter of all things eclectic and eccentric as well as a progressive arts- and culture-driven community – all of which will be on full display at the Sept. 29 festival.
Wildly popular Abbot Kinney Festival returns to Venice Sept. 29
By Michael Aushenker