More Holiday Lightings Planned For Venice Sign
For the first time, the Venice sign was lit up in celebration of Saint Patrick's Day. We shared this great shot taken by BoardwalkApp, and many others did the same. Prefixed as an Irish surname, O'VENICE emanated an emerald glow upon Windward Ave where a sparse gathering of locals rollicked under the iconic letters before enjoying Irish-inspired cocktails at nearby bars.
It's not often that we see the L.A. landmark fashioned for holidays. It's a special occasion. In December, white bulbs are swapped with red and green, and Windward Ave. is closed off as a jam-packed crowd waits to see which local celebrity will do the honors of flipping the switch at the annual Holiday Lighting Ceremony. A relatively new tradition, only three years old, it's already become one of the most popular events of the year with live music and bar crawls. Treeman comes festooned in ornaments and poses for photos; Last year the Venice Symphony Orchestra performed and the sign was lit by pop star Alecia Moore, better known as Pink.
So as we gazed upon O'Venice, we couldn't help but wonder: Will we all be sipping green beer and dancing to live folk bands on Windward in a couple years? And what about all the other big holidays? Maybe the sign will be made orange on Halloween, pink on Valentine's Day, or pastel come Easter.
Considering the other possibilities, St. Patrick's Day isn't an obvious first choice. There's no concentration of Irish Americans living in Venice of which we can tell. But it's not a bad choice either. People love to make things green that aren't supposed to be green. And we love local events, especially here in Venice where so many residents have transplanted from other cities and crave that small-town community connection. But why start with St. Patrick's Day?
To get some answers we turned to the Venice Chamber of Commerce, the organization that owns, operates and avidly guards the copyrighted use of the Venice sign, and spoke with George Francisco, the board member specifically in charge of all matters sign lighting. He took the reins of responsibility last year and upped the ante on the last Holiday Sign Lighting ceremony, closing off Windward, adding live music and securing a world famous rock star. He's also the guy behind "After Burn" or what some called "Burning Man West," the Rose. Ave block party that took place during the Venice Art Crawl in September. Art cars, live painting, music and glow sticks after dark transformed the street into a mini music fest. And he did it again at the spring Art Crawl, a block party just off Abbot Kinney with performance art, live music, and a kiddie drum circle. It's his goal to get everyone involved at Chamber-hosted events and to make all locals feel included.
Compared to other cities, Venice is pretty weak on its St. Paddy's Day game, but Francisco would like to see that change, and it was his idea to make people smile by putting the O' on Venice. Though he is a Chicago native and has deep sentiments for what a real St. Patrick's Day party should look like, the holiday just happened to land first on the calendar. To answer our earlier question: Yes. Yes, there will be more holiday sign lightings if Francisco has anything to do with it. He envisions the Venice sign as rotating art installation, changing in appearance and message.
"I think it's a great outreach tool," he says. "I'd like to see Martin Luther King Day; For cancer awareness make them pink for a week. And Halloween should be big."
He proposed a full calendar of opportunities to The Chamber, and while his ideas were met with enthusiasm and support, there's a cost. For 87 colored bulbs, you're looking at a few hundred dollars, plus labor. Not too expensive, but there's some fundraising to be done. St. Patrick's Day was simple enough. He had his friend Ramsey Daham, a local designer and architect, who also sits on the Venice Land Use & Planning Committee, construct the O, and it came together organically.
Next, he's looking at the 4th of July. It wouldn't be the first time the bulbs have gone red, white and blue, but it might be the first time we see a parade. It is Venice's bday after all, and Francisco intends to build more traditions around here, traditions that are uniquely Venice, and inclusive of all its residents. Without getting too far ahead of himself or mired in potential setbacks, he says he'll figure it out: "You have to imagine it before it can be."