The end of September means the 23rd annual Abbot Kinney Festival and a sunny day to walk around the streets of California beach town Venice. Founded in the 1890′s by tobacco mogul Abbot Kinney, Venice beach was originally built up as the “Venice of America.” Kinney’s dream included recreating the canals , gondolas, and architecture of Venice, Italy and the canals that still run between Venice boulevard and Washington Avenue remind visitors of the cities’ background daily. Each year, the Festival takes over Abbot Kinney Boulevard, and celebrates the lively neighborhood and community the founder created.
The Festival jams Abbot Kinney Boulevard with people. Some are on foot, some pushing strollers or walking dogs, and some are slowly riding bicycles through the pack. All along the street, vendors of all types set up shop. Tents line the middle of the street as guests walk down it sides, moving around one another and the bicycles that are parked in every spot possible. The vendors offer a little of everything, from food and drink to clothes, necklaces and earrings to art, to even vintage glasses and pet adoptions. People enjoy walking around, stopping for food, and each other’s company. The street is full of smiles.
The Festival houses three music stages set up throughout its lengthy path, which stretches from Venice Boulevard to Main Street. Reggae music blasts as visitors shop and eat, walking along the path. In the late afternoon, a Brazilian dance group and band parade through the street, clapping and performing for the crowd. Even the oldest grandmother enjoys herself, joining in to dance around and clap with the group.
All around, people walk drinking coconut milk from fresh coconuts and eating roasted corn right on the cob. Food stalls are set up throughout the festival, and people sit and eat on the sidewalk, taking a break from the artwork and shopping to relax. All the best traditional street fair food can be found here: hot dogs, French fries, lemonade, kettle corn, and of course funnel cake. The pulled pork barbecue sandwich is tasty, with a smoky barbecue sauce. And the Italian sausage and pepper sandwich is even better. The sausage is juicy and tender, with a spicy fennel flavor.
The festival has something for everyone. A family section includes pony rides, a mini ferris wheel, and a large slide. Children with faces painted into animals and superheros run from one ride to the next. The spirits section allows for those alcohol inclined to drink up. And a local shop offers $15 haircuts, so you can look just as awesome as the festival makes you feel. Walking along the street, seeing the local vendors mix with the locals and those who have traveled from the east sections of Los Angeles, you really get the sense of the community of Venice. And even if it’s just for the day of the festival, you feel like part of that community. And if you don’t actually live in Venice, there’s always next year’s festival.