This One's For Venice (Just Don't Call It the Anti-Festival)
Back in 2005, my Aunt Kathy opened Cruz Vintage on Abbot Kinney, a furniture and home decor boutique with rattan hoop chairs, tiki wares, surf photography and mid-century modern Hawaiiana collectibles. It was at the corner of Santa Clara in a yellow stucco bungalow with arched windows that peered out to Roosterfish.
She was on the front lines at the battle of Pinkberry in 2007, and says the ownership of her building changed hands three times during that new wave of development that would swell and swallow many others in the years to come. She closed up shop in 2008 and moved on to her next design venture.
Now living in San Pedro (my quiet hometown neighborhood, also on the cusp of mass re-development) and working on photography projects, I invited Aunt Kathy to come with me to the 30th annual Abbot Kinney Festival, two years ago. Weaving our way down the boulevard with Dogtown dogs in hand, led by the glint of jewelry tables, she was astounded at how large the festival had grown since her days of hosting as an Abbot Kinney shop owner. With her retail wheels spinning, she also noticed that the booths were arranged differently, drawing the crowd down the center of the street—logical given the amount of people who were here now, but not exactly conducive to persuading them into shops.
"Isn't that the point?" she said.
She wasn't alone in asking that question. The next year, in 2015, another street festival launched in Venice, also held on the last Sunday of September with vendor booths, art for sale, music and hot eats from the grill. Touted as "for locals by locals" the Venice Brooks Festival decided to bring the focus back to center, and it's here again this Sunday a block away from the main attraction.
From 11 a.m. to sunset, Venice Brooks Fest will be held on Brooks Avenue between Pacific Avenue and the Boardwalk, enticing beachgoers to follow the lure of barbecue and reggae. To get there from the end of Abbot Kinney, all you have to do is cross Main Street and walk a block west.
Marking the entry point is General Admission, a men's surf, apparel and lifestyle shop with the team behind it commandeering the second annual side fest and rallying dozens of other Venice names to join them. Vendors include popular shops throughout the neighborhood including The Golden State Store, Deus Ex Machina, Sole Bicycles, Venice Originals, and Gotta Have It Vintage. Local eats will be served up by chef Nicky from the Venice Whaler and Ol' Skool BBQ, and reggae beats come courtesy of DJ Higher, Danny Holoway, DJ Osamu, Dirty Dave and DJ Glenn Walsh.
The intention of the Venice Brooks Fest is to spotlight all the other great Venice shops and brands off Abbot Kinney that also make this neighborhood a worldwide destination, and for people who want to keep their dollars local, it couldn't be more convenient. As an online shop and occasional pop-up of Venice-made goods, we are 100-percent behind all efforts to promote artists and small business. It's a great idea and we will be there.
We'll also be at the Abbot Kinney Festival again this year, because if you are like us, you will look through the vendors list and quickly realize that you have friends representing at both events, and both events will donate proceeds to help local organizations. The Abbot Kinney Fest is a non-profit that's been fundraising for and donating to community, youth and art organizations for decades, and the Venice Brooks Fest will put their proceeds into the Venice Teen Project, which helps adolescents transitioning out of foster care into adulthood.
Staging the Venice Brooks Fest a block away from Abbot Kinney may seem like an act of rebellion, or even a peaceful protest, but when we finish the one-mile stretch and cross the light at Main, we're going to consider this a thoughtful and much-needed extension that makes Venice's biggest event of the year even better.
(Photo by Venice Brooks Festival)