The once-sleepy suburban seaside town of HermosaBeach, Calif. has grown and thrived, and so, too has the Hermosa Beach Fiesta, with carnival rides, food booths, arts and crafts, and live music. The fiesta runs twice annually, every Memorial Weekend and every Labor Day weekend.
The Saturday-Monday fest is located on closed-off city streets and on the car-less plaza that leads down to the city’s pier and the ocean itself.
Event organizer Michael Bell describes the event and how it has changed and grown over the years. When the event first began, it was on a single street, but today it is over six blocks long as well as being on Hermosa Beach plaza.
“This Memorial Weekend attendance was up, we had beautiful weather, and over our three-day operating period we had about 100,000 people come. As far as our exhibit booths go, we’re trying to make the event more appealing to local artists, and younger artists, budding artists in particular.”
This year, to attract those groups, Bell says “We started a children’s fine arts area with a local art studio coordinating interactive art for kids. They could go into a booth and create their own artwork, and were surrounded by local fine artists from Hermosa.” Bell says all in all, he’s working to give the event a more local flavor; he’s encouraging area artists to exhibit at the fiesta booths by offering special booth costs and incentives to encourage them in their participation.
Other changes are also being planned.
“For next year, we are looking at possibly adding a wine garden to join the existing beer garden, making it a separate thing, a little more relaxed atmosphere, not party central. We would offer a bite to eat and the chance to listen to softer music. We would expand a little on the east side of our event further from the water.”
Along with the wide range of arts and crafts booths, currently, there is the existing beer garden, and the fiesta’s carnival rides. “We use the company we have used for years, Candyland Amusements. There was nothing particularly new this year, we cannot really bring in the big rides in the small area that we have, so it is mostly kiddie rides. I would say that the big inflatable slide is probably most popular, and the petting zoo and pony rides never go out of style.”Carnival rides and attractions cost between $3 and $5; purchased tickets are a $1 each. Admission to the fiesta itself is free.
Music is also a strong component of the event. Bell says “We had live music on two stages this year but three performance areas. We added that third area, an acoustic area, on a street corner at the entrance to the festival. The two main stages are located in the beer garden, and in the heart of the festival by the pier.”
This year, Bell didn’t stick with just the ever-popular tribute bands that comprise a great deal of the musical line-up each year. “We had a good funk band on Saturday afternoon, and the Kevin Sosua Band, which is a local favorite well known in the area. We brought him in to kick off the shows.” Bell adds “My favorite musical act this particular year performed the sound of the band Chicago. It was a tribute band with a personal connection to the band, headed by the brother of the original band’s lead singer. It sounded spot-on.” Bell notes that tribute bands are crowd favorites “So we just try to find the best tribute bands that we can for the fiesta.”
Bell feels that music is likely the most popular aspect of the fair. “Of course, the food court does great, and with carnival games and arts and crafts, there’s something that appeals to everyone here, but music may be the strongest draw.”
When it comes to food, while the booths, with their mix of lemonade, corn on the cob, and BBQ remain strong fixtures year after year, this year, Bell added something different. “We brought in food trucks, which has been hard to do because the trucks can’t just park and stay the whole weekend, they have to leave and go back to their commissary each night. But what we did was put four or five trucks at each of the end caps of the fiesta location this year. Some of the most popular were local restaurants such as Ragin’ Cajun,” he attests. The popular Cajun eatery has been a mainstay in Hermosa Beach for years. Other trucks featured New York deli-style food, Asian cuisine, and ice cream.
Another new addition to the fiesta is a kick-off ceremony on Saturday morning. “The last few years we’ve started the show with a Memorial Day tribute ceremony. We kind of felt people have lost sight of what the weekend really is; it isn’t just three days off to have a party. So, we are giving honor to our fallen troops by having military personal give a short speech, a color guard performs, and then there’s the National Anthem. It feels nice to start the event that way.” Bell notes that he may also look to commemorate Labor Day in the near future.
To promote the Hermosa Fiesta, Bell uses three local community newspapers, a Facebook page, and across-the-street banners. “To tell the truth we don’t do much promotion. We get too many people as it is. My problem is not getting people to show up, my problem is finding a place for everyone to park. That’s a good problem to have,” he laughs.
With parking issues in mind, the fiesta offers parking off-site at nearby corporation Northrup Grumman’s large parking lot. Attendees are then bussed into the actual fiesta area on a free shuttle. “We also have a bike valet as of six years ago, and that is a big hit. We parked over 3,000 bikes this year. We do that, we provide that service, to encourage people to go green, save gas, and don’t worry about the parking.” The lot is on the beach and guarded; the valet service is free. Riders are also offered free air for their tires, and on-site diagnostic checkups while they enjoy the festival. The lot is open from 10 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. daily.
Also green-friendly: the festival’s buses and generators, fueled with clean-burning biodiesel made from vegetable oil donated by local restaurants. Food court vendors use completely compostable plates and silverware, and a local waste company, Athens, recycles glass and plastic containers.