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A Cast of Thousands: Abbot Kinney Festival 2009:

Abbot Kinney, the man who developed Venice in 1906, possessed an avid interest in all things cultural. He had traveled extensively through Europe, India, Ceylon, New Guinea, Australia, and Hawaii, and had learned to speak fluently in six languages. The Abbot Kinney Festival, now in its twenty-fifth year, in some measure, with its abundance of music, merchants, and comestibles, reflects the manifold cultural qualities of Mr. Kinney, and this past weekend exposed the cosmopolitan evolution that the event has evolved to become today.

This past Sunday there were tents galore, stretching the entire length of Abbot Kinney Boulevard, with visiting merchants displaying their various wares like wandering Gypsies charming the locals with promises of good fortune. A myriad of items, and services, that the hoi polloi could satiate their desires with, were on display. Sarongs, beads, drums, jewelry, historical photographs, art of every color and kind, sculptures, all manner of religions, the NRA defending the second amendment (curiously positioned next to a company that sold tee-shirts depicting splattered guts!), peace-mongers, eco-fanatics, and even a company that specialized in “electronic systems integration (?),” were just a few of the many attractions.

The growing crowd snaked along the boulevard all afternoon, gazing, swaying to the muzak and, of course, indulging in that essential carnival activity, eating, and this year was one of the greatest threats to the resolve of any weight-watcher that one could possibly imagine. There was an abundance of Hawaiian chicken, a cornucopia of food trucks (the latest “meals-on-wheels” craze), which included The Border Grill, Nomnom Truck, Baby Badass Burgers, Dosatruck (Indian), The Gastrobus, DoughDoughs, and Eatcoolhaus. There were the usual vendors from Downtown Los Angeles’ Olvera Street, purveying their tasty Mexican plates, hot dogs galore, and of course all of the permanent brick and mortar restaurants of the boulevard were open for business.

For those wishing to imbibe, the festival furnished them with a pair of beer gardens, and for others whose penchant was for sonic satisfaction, this year’s event boasted no less than three stages featuring many bands and DJ’s. The Brooks Avenue, or “Little Radio Stage,” featured acts including Paul Chesne, Eskimo Hunter and Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros. At the other end the Palms Avenue Stage, sponsored by Air Conditioned Supper Club, featured talented artists like Peter Goetz, and local favorites Venice, as well as The Brig Band amongst many others. In the middle, at Andalusia Avenue, was the more eclectic FMLY Stage that included performances by Babystone, and the brilliant Evan Voytas.

The Inside Out Community Arts Courtyard at Westminster Avenue was predominantly kid and teen-centric, with an eco-educational presentation by Aquamantra and many other performances. At one time during this didactic exhibition, the audience was asked the question: “Who wants to live in a world full of trash?” Needless to say, not a single hand was raised.

Robin’s Garden provided a much needed moment of serenity in what had, by three o’clock, become something of a very slow motion replication of that annual event in Pamplona, Spain, that involves the masses running in front of bulls, but in this instance sans large animals, of course. In Robin’s Garden, a secluded oasis of tranquility amongst the commerce, there was to be found a number of delightful and attractive sculptures. In the midst of this beauty, a quaint performance by a lady playing a violin, whilst singing in medieval infused tones, was occurring, much to the demure delight of the attentive audience of credit card hippies and new age travelers in residence.

The sun peeked and hid, peeked and hid, but mainly remained obscured by clouds, which was no bad thing, as it kept the proceedings nice and cool. It turned out to be a grand day for the festival, with a great portion of the proceeds going to support many Venice-based organizations, and to efforts intended to improve the environs, and quality of life for people from all walks, with an emphasis on support of youth and the Arts.

Quote of the day: Overheard next to a designer drink stand, promoting their “Honest Tea” brand, “Hey, Jim, there’s a drink over there that makes people honest!” To which Jim replied, “Aww, I don’t want any of that!” Well, at least he was honest.

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