The Venice Canal Festivals - History While Partying!
September is always one of my most favorite months in Venice. The summer is still going full-strength, but the kids are all back t'school, the tourists mainly have departed, the ocean's still reasonably warm for morning swimming, and there's a tintillating tinge in the air. The dog days of summer usually bring out some of the warmest weather of the year here at the beach. The sun still sets after 7, at least through the 15th. And I still try to keep that summer spirit alive. But there's also that dying feeling, of the end of something, and the possibilities of something new, something next. Something possibly wild.
In 1969, Venice was still pretty much a hippie town, especially in the low-rent commercial space areas, along parts of the boardwalk, and all through the canals. Back then, all you needed was a truck with a camper attached, and you were set. Just pull into a vacant lot, and call it home. Life in the canals was a trip, going along at its uninterrupted pace, concurrent with other mind-shattering events of the time, such as Woodstock, which occurred less than a month before this indigenous society, this tribe of canal locals, decided to hold a party in praise of themselves.
What started in 1969 as a small Canal Festival grew into another first for Venice, an annual celebration of all things timely, be they about real estate, ways of life, or the Los Angeles Police. These festivals lasted until 1976, when instead of a celebration, the "Festival" became a "Funeral." Unfortunately, as some had foreseen, the hippie way of life had become doomed. And therefore must be put away properly.
And who was there to report about these goings-on within this tight-knit community? Of course, the Free Venice Beachhead. And to come clean, while researching this article, I grew to respect their slanted take on Venice events. And to learn a bit more about another seminal event in our unique place in the development of our fair share of '60s west coast history.
Following are full-copy versions of the stories of the Canal Festivals, all 7 years of them, as offered by the Beachhead. Along with various opinions by your proud author, and others?
The first Canal Festival was announced by posting 3x5 cards on tree trunks and on the bridges of the canals during August, 1969. The exact text has been forgotten, but the reason for the "happening" is well remembered - but in true canal style - varies depending on whom you ask. Some say it was simply a big party. Many of the canal residents were hippies, and formed a very tight knit community. They liked communal fun.
But others give it a more sinister cast. They say that the writing was on the wall 8
0 the hippie way of life was in danger of being pushed out of the canals. The festival was a way of joining together and celebrating their life-style while they still could.
1st Canal Festival 9/13/69
"Come float around the canals on the 13th, reads the invitation to the Venice Canal Festival - a festival of "art, music, and life." Life in the canals was recently reassured by the failure of the Canal Assessment District to attract any bidders. This auspicious event in the struggle of the canal area residents to keep their homes has transformed the Festival into a celebration of victory over the yacht-set who are trying to move in.
At the Festival, you won't find the yacht-set, but the raft-set. Huge rafts have been constructed to carry people and drifting performers around the canals.
Venice artists and craftsmen will be demonstrating and exhibiting their art-sculpting, painting, throwing pots, square-knotting, and whatever. The poets from Beyond Baroque, dancers, and a theatre group will be there.
The initial list of musical performers includes John Paul, who sings his own material to a 12-string guitar, the Song of Earth Chorale, Brother Nigel's Proxy Party, the Euclid Avenue Express, and Kaleidoscope. There are others who are not yet certain.
The artists and musicians will be locate along Grand Canal and 28th Avenue (near Washington Street an
d Pacific Avenue). The Festival will last for only one day, beginning at 3 p.m. Saturday, September 13, lasting into the evening when there will be films and a light show.
There are reportedly some sky divers who are looking for just the right field and some resident witches who have something special planned for the day.
The price is right - FREE. Food will be a do-it-yourself picnic.
First Annual Venice Canal Festival
The Venice Canal Festival of September 13 was conceived as a funeral dirge. It was intended to show Los Angeles what a basically creative and productive community it was destroying by passing the Canal Assessment District and encouraging urban renewal for millionaires. However, when in the midst of planning, no bids were forthcoming for the project, the Festival turned into a tremendous celebration. Theoretically the Festival was apolitical. The actual event was planned to emphasize no political bias. However by its very existence, September 13 became a significant political statement to many, both those for and against the Canal Project.
The organizers of the Festival were at base the hard core of canal renters and proprietor(s) who had worked together previously against the Assessment District. Representatives of Newsreel and the Free Venice Organizing Committee (working for the same cause in this case, by accident rather than design) ad
ded their contributions. Weekly meetings were characterized by confusion and repetition. However, somewhere along the line contacts were made with artists and bands, barges were built, preparations for a monitoring system laid down and publicity arranged.
On Saturday, September 13 people began arriving before exhibits, but by 4 p.m. everything was in full swing. Along Grand Canal there were exhibits by Guy Jay (paintings), Bill Olive (drawings), Claire Falkenstein (sculptures), Malibu Media (clothing wholesalers), Earnstine Romo's son (paintings,sketches and sculptures), Arthur (a boy painter), Ron Martin and Roz (paintings), Bev Moio (paintings), Diane Powell (paintings and sketches), Charlie Hanson (stained glass), Suzan (dolls), Beyond Baroque poets (readings, live and taped), Carl Roles (leather), and Free Venice (politics).
Along 28th Avenue, beneath the sounds of numerous jamming musicians, most of whom just appeared, and John Paul Lehto (guitarist and singer) were sculptures by Noel Osheroff, posters by Earl Newman, metal etchings by Billy Al Bengston, photos by John Heller, body painting by Emily Cordova, Indian artifacts by some little man who just showed up, paintings by Linda Wargo, roaming astrology cards by James Palmer, paintings by Jeff Simpson, and an exhibit, a mosaic and a spontaneous mural by the children from the Nightengale school.
Barge rides were given along the canal for the childre
n and occasional adults. Song of Earth Chorale singing from the barge was an excitingly novel and singularly ethereal experience. Venice Library set up slides in the evening as well as supplying monitors. An unexpected addition to the Festival was the pleasing lack of Law Enforcement Officers.
Between sundown and films, perhaps the most significant event of the Festival occurred. The plan originally, was to put the ten to twelve organizers of the festival on the barge, line the Grand Canal with flares, and then tow the barge down the canal between two rows of flares while all aboard sang - rather Bergmanesque. However, too many people got on the barge and the middle float shipped water and began to sink. In the end, one long-haired, long-bearded freak waving a flare, stumbled back and forth on the floating edge of the barge, while the dry ice sank into the water from the other end and billows of mist boiled out into the night air and the barge drifted in circles - but remained afloat.
All the participants, artists and visitors, seemed to have a marvelously gay time enjoying the canals. Altogether the Venice Canal Festival of September 13 was a fantastic success. We hope to make it a community tradition.
The second Canal Festival was held a year later, on September 13, 1970. This time, there was a poster announcing the event, with music - crafts 0A- theatre - food - films - art. An image of two kids, a white and a black, playing along the banks of a canal, with ducks floating nearby, was printed in red on yellow, with the uniquely-lettered VENiCE CANAL FESTiVAL in bold letters running across the top. This poster was the forerunner for almost all that followed over the years, with it's high-contrast image, craftsy-influenced type face, and unique canal imagery.
Here's what the Beachhead had to say -
The Venice canal community invites all those wishing to demonstrate their solidarity with the Venice community's efforts of self determination to participate in the Second Annual Canal Festival.
Last year the people of the canals, out of frustration with a political system which has excluded them from the planning and development of their community, planned a festival which they thought would be a last gathering of a community soon to be destroyed. Then we learned that our combined efforts had succeeded in blocking the project which threatened our community, the festival became also a celebration of victory. This year the city government is trying once more to turn the canals over to speculators and absentee land owners. So determined are they to serve profit interests that it's proposed that city funds totaling more than $23,000,000 be committed to another private marina which will not be
open to the public, the planning of which will never consider community wishes, and which in fact will mean the destruction of the community we love.
We urge everyone concerned to come September 13 to a celebration on the canals. We urge the people of Los Angeles to participate in our festival, and then to ask themselves and their representatives if the city should commit public funds to be used in the destruction of a creative, vital community and the acquisition by private developers of a unique public waterway. [Hello. It must have been pretty ruthless back then, when the city never showed a long-hair any courtesy. Or at least a sense of history, on a public waterway!]
The people of Venice may participate more directly by agreeing to display their art, crafts, photos, anything they make, or anything which contributes to the quality of Venice life.
For the third festival, held on September 19, 1971, it appears the same poster artist was used. A nice, tranquil photo of a canal represents this year's party in a burnt sienna color on tan paper stock, with ThiRD ANNUAL VENCE CANAL FESTiVAL, MUSIC ARTS CRAFTS, telling it all.
And here's the early notification for help from the Beachhead -
September is coming soon and most Venice residents know that to be the time of celebration in the Canals. For two consecutive years we have held a Venice Canal Festival and this i
s no time to stop that tradition. Yes, the City Council has passed the Canal Project with plans to turn a beautiful community into a millionaires' yacht harbor resulting in the removal of all present residents - but they haven't done it yet and they'll get no help from us. Last try we held them up in court for a year and a half because they locked the tenants out of a "public hearing." This time we're taking them to court again with at least two law suits and one from Howard Hughes (ironic as that may seem).
So this Canal Festival will be our 3rd Annual. Last year we had thousands of people walking around our community - enjoying our art, listening to our music, eating our food, riding our boats and seeing our films. We had artists and craftsmen lining the waterways with some creating their art for the public to see. Various community groups had booths, distributed literature and sold posters. We had rock, jazz, folk, and classical music. Puppet shows entertained the children in Spanish and English. Decorated boats rode children and the Song of Earth Chorale floated up and down the canals on a barge filling the air with Slavic song. The canal community hosted dinner for a dollar at the Community House and outdoor films were enjoyed after dark.
We hope to top it all this year and everyone is invited to help. We meet on Thursday nights at th
e Community House, 468 Howland Canal. If you would like to help but can't attend the meetings, call Judy Goldberg about entertainment; Gail Glick about food from the community. If you would like to exhibit or can help seek out artists and craftsmen call Mary Jane.
The fourth and fifth festivals, held on September 17, 1972 and September 23, 1973, got kind of short shrift from the Beachhead. Although the posters again followed suit with high-contrast images of a typical curved arch bridge ('72) and the recently installed people's park ('73), the only thing that appeared was this from 1973 -
People who received parking tickets at the Venice Canals Festival for parking in the median strip on Venice Blvd. may have them cancelled at the Venice Police Station.
The announcement for the 6th Annual Venice Canal Festival, held September 29, 1974, broke tradition in the appearance of the, kind of, poster. This year it was just an 8 1/2 by 11 inch calligraphy manifesto with a lot of information. An oval photograph of a bridge, with fanciful border illustrations, fills out the bottom, and it just kind of sticks out in the overall collection of posters.
In the Beachhead was printed this announcement -
The first Venice Canal Festival was conceived in 1969 in the fight to save our canal community from being wiped out by the "Progress" of real es
tate interests and the plan to create a private residential marina.
The continuing purpose of the festival is to visibly demonstrate that we have here a community worth preserving and that the canals themselves constitute a public recreational resource that should not be taken from the people.
On the day of the festival we want our neighbors to see who we are, what we do, and to share the pleasures of the canals with us.
We invite all artists, craftsmen, performers, cooks, organizations, individuals who live in Venice to join us again in celebration.
The purpose of the festival is not to sell commercially made wares or to make money, but to celebrate our community and to share what we ourselves do and make. We invite people to have a good time and to help save an endangered species, the residents of Venice.
That whole thing about the residents feeling endangered took on a funny circumstance by a gorgeous Venice hippie local, who just happened to move onto Carroll Canal the day before. "I moved from Malibu, where I lived on the beach. North of Topanga. So, it was moving day and I'd come from this really peaceful place, right on the beach where I saw very few people, y'know, dogs and people sometimes on horseback, but rarely. I just happened to move in the day before the annual canal festival. And I woke up that morning and it was Sunday and I thought "my god!" and no
w there's all these people and there's music and it's like a love-in. It reminded me of a love-in from the 60s. And I'm thinking this is really great but I don't think I want to live in a place where they do this every weekend. Cuz I didn't know this wasn't every weekend. This was my welcome to Venice. I remember being a bit timid about it because I thought, man, I just really prefer the beach. Venice was just overwhelming!
So then after that, I went out and joined the crowds. And it was absolutely great! I think the year later was the one when Mark and Caroline were out visiting from San Francisco and I remember there was a little rowboat that we rowed around in. So there I was out on the canals with two good friends, being very Venice. Yes, it was very Venice.
This would be the seventh annual VENICE CANAL FESTIVAL sunday, september 14, 1975 - as proclaimed on this year's poster. All very contemporary with the sepia-toned photo now half-toned, of a lonely guy, sitting on his one-man-raft, just digging on some internal grooveness. A new design, effective layout, and yet mythic-feeling, this one made you feel like you were a part of it. This was the only festival I attended, and yes, the whole vibe of the entire canals was one of a truly unifying spirit. As if all the other local tribes, from Topanga, Malibu, Hollywood, wherever,20would converge on this special area and help celebrate the uniqueness of this time and place. Yes, it was exceedingly crowded, but the intensity of the situation made up for any waiting-in-lineness inherent in getting around back then.
But the times were changing. The following year, the bicentennial year of American pride 1976, there was a bit of melancholy in this September. This year the festival would actually be its own funeral. The end of a good thing. Here's some accounts, starting with the Beachhead -
Mary Lou Johnson
The question most often heard these days along the canals is "when is the canal festival going to be?" There seems to be a general feeling that somehow a Canal Festival Committee lurks somewhere in the wings awaiting the magic moment of resurrection and - Voila! - another glorious canal festival appears for the delectation of more ordinary mortals.
"Tain't so, folks!" As a matter of fact, the mythical, mystical persons whose energy guided the festival from its inception in 1969, have been blown to the four winds like so many dandelion seed by the nasty hot breath of high rents, eviction and the harsh reality of the high cost of being poor in Venice. Names like Mary Jane Kwan, John Heller, Nancy McCullough and Jo Hyacinthe come to mind - a new Diaspora, while the few of us remaining find our energie
s dissipated by the Babylonian nightmare.
The Canal Festival was a survival celebration would be a canard under such circumstances. One single developer, Solar Systems, has permit applications before the South Coast Regional Commission which would wipe out 25% of the remaining open space. Needless to say, these are not applications for low or moderate income dwellings. And that is but the tip of the iceberg. Sounds like a funeral is more in order.
And that's exactly what we have in mind. No more tie-dyed images of happy hippies bound in macramé solidarity preserving the illusion that "it's still happening in the canals." Our pot of joy has been broken and our lifestyle destroyed; so let's tell it like it is - not like it was.
The funeral will take place on September 26 from noon to dusk. Come mourn with us. Get out the widows weeds, practice your dirges, wear a black arm ban or funeral attire, drape your dog, wallow!
We would appreciate any input from Venetians who share our grief and would like to participate.
Mourning Day Due for Venice Canals Festival
9-26-76 L.A. Times
For several years, the Venice Canals Festival has been a celebration but this year it will be a funeral.
Mary Lou Johnson, principal organizer of the event, said it is proper to mourn because of what she sees as the probable demise of the canals' f
ree and celebrated way of life in the face of development.
"We have in mind no tie-died images of happy hippies in solidarity," she said, "but a pot of joy broken, a life-style destroyed."
The funeral will be today from noon to dusk at the Dell Ave. playground within the canals, and mourners are asked to wear funeral attire, black armbands, and even to drape their dogs in mourning.
"We want people to bring wreaths or bouquets which will be floated on the canals," Ms. Johnson said.
She indicated that the focus of pessimism on the part of those planning the funeral is the scheduled Oct. 4 hearing of the South Coast Regional Zone Conservation Commission for 21 new homes on the canals.
The funeral procession will be routed to all of the vacant lots that will be taken over by construction if the permits are approved.
About this time anyone who has been the least bit involved in Venice doings, start getting asked about the Canal Festival. "When's it gonna be? I gotta start making coke-spoons for it." Well, my dears, the Canal Festival was not originated to make the world safe for batik t-shirts. So put away your pre-earthquake Guatemalan glad rags. The festival is not going to happen. The Wilsons, Dufays et al can put away their ulcer pills.
The Canal Festival was put on as a political stat
ement, and who said politics and fighting for what one believes in can't be fun?
In those days, the city called the Venice Canal assessment district the Master Plan. People from Oakwood, North Beach, Central Venice (all of us were to be called outside agitators by Councilmen Snyder and Nowell) showed up to protest the city's latest welfare for the rich scheme even though it was just the canals that were being decided upon. However, Los Angeles and the speculators and some Councilmen had not yet heard of the abolition of the poll tax, and thought renters had no right to decide where they could live, especially if they were low-income renters.
The people knew as the canals went, so went Venice. [This has proven to be SO prophetic an insight that anyone else arguing about the state of current Venetian affairs should go back and reread this history of political fortitude and commitment.] The people were riled that the City could even think of spending six million dollars for the development of a rich man's yacht club and not one cent for low income housing on that same land.
Despite the allegations of landowners and speculators who wanted to make Venice a decent place to live for the rich, we still fought and fought non-violently. We were called long haired hippy freaks by the L.A. Times and Evening Outlook. New West wasn't there to report on the quaintness of it all. Rex
all was not carrying herbal shampoos, Bell Brand had not come out with organic potato chips, and one could still get a second hand pair of jeans for 50¢ at Sally's.
After one notorious meeting where 300 people were not allowed into City Council chambers for a public hearing, because they did not own property, and another hearing where the serfs were allowed in, but not allowed to speak because they were not property owners, and where those two hearings were declared unconstitutional, and when Hughes Tool Co. agreed in substance with the pro-lifers in the canals i.e. those who wanted to keep the canals as a mixed income public access area and not a playground for the rich (Hughes said that the city plan was economically unfeasible).
A Canal Festival was decided upon. It was organized with no help (and sometimes hindrance) from the city or any of its agencies or elected officials.
The City Dept. of Water and Power, pressured by the Marina-Venice Women's Chamber of Commerce, certain realtors, Ocean Front Property Owners association and other organizations representing outside absentee landowners tore down the handmade banners that were strung across the canals. Police stepped up their already heavy surveillance on the "Venice Radicals."
The Festival went on. It was like a private party for Venice. It was a rallying cry to keep up the good fight. It was a success.
help or encouragement from the city a second and third Canal Festival was put on. Naturally as with all things that take root, in beneficient soil, it flourished. Local craftspeople sold their wares. Anti-war, anti-pollution and other political groups set up booths. People continued to throw open their yards and houses for the festival. 85% of the people living on the canals, renters and live-on property owners alike thought it was a fine idea. Every year Myrtle Wilson, the Dufays and others would mutter about the dope smoking hippie radicals that invaded the canals. However, the police decided to help instead of hinder and with few exceptions cooperated with the festival people. The Sanitation Dept. helped with the porto-toilets. Then the question of permits to sell came up. Regulations. Requirements, records of taxes, etc.
When the festival started only a handful of people were needed to organize and monitor. By last year the organizers were sinking in a bureaucratic quagmire of paper work and permits. People lost sight of the raison d'etre of the festival. I remember receiving calls from people inquiring about the festival because the festival had become one of their fair stops in California.
It began to look like a bazaar for hippie capitalism. Mass produced leather goods stamped with marijuana leaves were for sale in the booths that dyed and pressed turquoise tsatskes weren't. Boppers from the Val
ley and Pacific Palisades came to the festival to let it all hang out, get high, get laid and vomit in the canals. Like long hair, ethnic dresses and pot, the Canal Festival was being co-opted by the same folks who are co-opting Reggae, yoga and that last bastion of hip - granola. They know the ritual, but they don't know the meaning. They're the sort of folks who snort their coke, stage a concert and charge outrageous sums for a rock star that's been hyped by the media via Women's Wear Daily, New West, New York and L.A. Mag, as the new Big Deal.
What's unfortunate is that the rubes really buy it. Chewing their cud, copping their downs, smoking grass they pay too much for, they crowd into events that are supposed to be "in".
How many times have I seen them crossing the bridges on the canals, their eyes blank, looking for something to happen to buy, their mouths prematurely petulant from having missed it all, but not knowing what they were at the festival for.
Then the realization came to me. The people who had always been instrumental in the festival had finally been pushed out by high rents, retaliatory evictions, overt threats to their lives and damage to their property. No, the happy natives ain't gonna put on this quaint and curious festival for the delictation of the tourists and realtors. They are going to do something more po
sitive. They are going to bury the specious joy of the Canal Festival.
It's time for the festival to die. It's being given a decent burial by people who love it.
The Canal Festival is being buried. Childish things are being put away. And those who invested their energy into the festival are now channeling their energies into fighting the incursions of ticky-tacky monstrosities built for the second string jet set that just adore the quaint unique lifestyle - if it weren't for all those ghastly poor people.
The death card in the Tarot Deck does not necessarily mean death. It can be the end of an old way of life or thinking and the birth of a new struggle.
The Venice Town Council passed a resolution condemning the festival funeral, but on a gray, hung over, muggy Sunday, over 300 Venetians followed the Canal Festival Funeral procession as it wound and struggled up the narrow bridges and crumbling sidewalks of the canals. The black-clad crowd stood quietly and patiently as the funeral wreaths were laid on each of the 21 lots that are up before the South Coast Regional Coastal Commission for building permits on October 4. They stood on the dusty lots and people talked about the little houses that had been there, and the residents that had lived in them, moved out by high rents, high taxes and terrorist activities.
The first Canal Festival was originated as a funeral, and now it's buried because it grew old and lost the original meaning - that of a rallying cry to preserve the rich mix of people that makes Venice a community and not just a place to live in. The funeral, despite the cries of "negative," "ooh, I hate death!" and "black makes me look so sallow," turned out to be one of the most positive actions held in Venice in a long time.
I looked at the people as they saw the lots marked for outsized houses. Houses to be surrounded by six foot fences. Houses three times as tall as the smaller, older structures around them. Not apartment buildings for mixed incomes, but dwelling places for people who are going to use Venice as a suburb, a bedroom community.
Everyone contributed to the funeral in their own way. Happy Jack lent the coffin, and the media was there and as usual managed to imply that a bunch of beer drinking, drug taking rowdies had a head bashing fest. This time, however, the L.A. Times also managed to give it racial overtones. Mr. Nieson Himmel, Police Reporter for the Times, mentioned the police action, racial slurs, and did not report that a woman had been arrested for refusing to disperse from her own front yard. Who needs a third party or political activists when the City of L.A. and its agencies do such a good job of radicali
zing the silent majority? With the exception of Channel 2, KNXT news, none of the major media mentioned the focus of the action, which was to stop mass high income developments in the canal area.
At 4 o'clock, after the eulogies had been spoken, the funeral wreaths floated down the canals, a rock band started to play and people started to dance. The police came and declared it an illegal assembly. "Just like any other festival," someone said.
"Everyone had the sort of festival they wanted," said Mary Lou. "I'm a funeral freak and I had that. The militants had their festival, the boogiers had their festival and the police had their festival."
"There were no permits so anyone could do anything they wanted - even the police," said Jay, the Bubble Man. "Everyone did their own trip," said Tomito. "The police wouldn't let us carry the coffin because it attracted too much attention, so me and 5 or 6 kids snuck it up and down the foot bridges - running! Whew!" said Marcella. "You must leave this park," said a police officer. "What for?" said Moe Stavnezer, advocate for the community at Coastal Commission hearings. "You're under arrest," said the police officer.
"I said the funeral would be a consciousness raising event. I didn't expect the police to coopera
te so fully," said Mary Lou.
It's the kind of funeral I want. To be lovingly remembered by friends, to know they will think of me as they do their necessary tasks for survival.
The Canal Festive is dead! LONG LIVE THE CANALS!
My feelings exactly. Here's Jeff Stanton's take on the Canal Festivals history -
Residents in the rundown Venice canals, fearing that cheap rents would soon end with the proposed canal renovation and a subsequent gated community, staged an annual late summer Canal Festival beginning in 1969 and ending in 1976. It was a time of desperation by canal property owners and those along adjacent 28th Street, who were to be assessed thousands of dollars to fund this renovation, when Abe Osheroff at one of the weekly meetings had a brainstorm. He proposed, "Lets' have a Canal Festival that will demonstrate to the city that this should not be made into a private enclave. It's a resource that belongs to the whole city." He and John Heller, with input from others in the group, created an alternative plan to simply repair the area's crumbling sidewalks and canal banks, and turn many of the city-owned vacant lots into parks.
The subsequent Canal Festival the first year show-cased their Bohemian lifestyle and hippie culture in the dilapidated cottages that they rented. People cooked food, which they sold and served in their yards,
while artists displayed their work, and musicians performed everything from classical music to rock and roll. The smell of marijuana and incense was pervasive throughout the area, but nobody complained. While the canal residents hoped to get sympathy from the anti-development faction to stop the city's canal 'Master Plan,' it only highlighted the area's potential to prospective homeowners, who for $30,000 could purchase a lot, with or without a beach cottage.
As the Canal Festivals grew larger in subsequent years, problems occurred. The city began requiring permits to sell food, and the police and fire department complained of lack of access due to the mass of visitors. There were people walking around on drugs, and drunks getting into fights, yet the police made few arrests.
To celebrate its final year, its organizers held a Canal Festival Funeral. They made a huge wounded paper mache' duck, placed it on a barge, and with singers aboard, paraded it around the canals. Costumed residents, women wearing black flowing dresses, joined in the parade, which ended in a vacant lot where the funeral ceremony took place. They buried it in a coffin while a band and belly dancers performed. It was the community's way of marking the end of their low-rent paradise.
Whatever the reason for its beginning, the festival continued for those seven glorious years. All the Canal Festivals are=2
0remembered with great joy by those fortunate enough to have been there. But not all was as glossy as it's been portrayed. There was some unnecessary violence at the final funeral, as well. Here's the story -
10 Arrested at Venice Festival
Violence, Vandalism Mar Canals Party
9-27-76 L.A. Times
Violence and vandalism resulting in at least 10 arrests marred a Sunday afternoon celebration along the Venice canals by residents opposed to development in the coastal community.
No one was injured in the incidents that occurred during and after a festival marking the apparent end to the once-annual Venice Canals Festival, which was denied police and other permits for this year.
But 22-year-old Angela Carter, a visitor to California from Denver, was roughed up when a mob surrounded her car and destroyed it when she wandered into the party area in the 2300 block of Dell Ave.
Witnesses and Miss Carter said the crowd forced her to stop then poured beer over the car and taunted her with racial slurs. A fight ensued between Miss Carter and another woman before Miss Carter, a black, ran for help.
While she waited for police, about 15 persons joined in to smash all the windows, flatten the tires, slash the seats and tear all hoses and wiring from the engine of her car.
Police arrived about 45 minutes later in riot helmets after firemen responding to reports of a car afire radioed for assista
nce because of the crowd of onlookers, which then numbered about 100 persons.
Earlier, 10 people were arrested on misdemeanor charges of failure to disperse, including two for battery on a police officer, when several dozen police tried to break up the festival because the crowd of 300 was blocking traffic. Several fights broke out then, police said, and some rocks were thrown at officers.
Aahhh, the good old days. And what is left of those afternoons of music and art? Of community and peace? Of living life for a cause, rather that through a millionaire's window out over a private canal? I've decided that one of these September Sunday afternoons, I'm going to go visit the canals again. Pretend I'm back almost 40 years ago. I'll stroll along her fixed up banks, climb her various foot-bridges, peak into the homes of the wealthy and the old cottage inhabitants, and refresh my spirit in the celebration of their once unique lifestyle among this piece of heaven, our Venice Canals.