The longer a neighborhood exists, the more likely it is to form traditions that last for years, even decades. Some traditions fizzle out, but others are so popular that not only do they stick around; they thrive and continue to grow.
In the Larchmont community, we have an abundance of neighborhood traditions that are alive and well. Here is a sampling:
Nothing says Americana quite like a summer block party. Games, barbecue, dessert contests, music, the communal potluck table, neighbors lounging on a speed hump—it’s a tradition that keeps our communities enviously close-knit.
One of the oldest continuous block parties in Los Angeles happens in Brookside. Back in 1979, a few neighbors decided to hold a party in the middle of Longwood Ave. Over the years, the party expanded to include the entire 400 houses in the Brookside community, rotating to a different street every year. Originally, two Brookside residents, Tee and Collette Bradley, roped their friends and family into barbecuing an annual average of 97 lbs. tri-tip, 80 lbs. chicken, 50 lbs. salmon, 40 lbs. beef burgers, 20 lbs. hot dogs and cooking 32 quarts of chili for the throngs of residents. Finally, after 28 years, Tee and Colette hung up their aprons and tongs, and the job passed on to a local catering company, Earlez, who shows up every year to the relief and joy of the residents.
Though some block party traditions, like the children’s flag parade, have fallen by the wayside, other traditions sprung up that are stronger than ever. Face-painting, bounce houses, water slides, pie-eating and dessert contests and a petting zoo are only a few of the delights residents in Brookside have come to enjoy. The importance of neighborhood block parties gained added significance when newly-elected Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa made the Brookside block party one of his first stops upon winning election in 2005.
Not far down the street another long-standing block party has been held every fall for the last 37 years on Lucerne Blvd.
The residents close off the street and invite the entire community to attend. Annual traditions such as the egg toss are still going strong, and the kids enjoy bounce houses, a petting zoo, magic show and a henna tattoo artist. The catering changes yearly. Everything from In n’ Out Burgers to Sky Taco’s to potluck has been served up in a never-ending quest to deliver the perfect block party meal.
This year, the inaugural “Best in Show” pet competition will kick off before the egg toss, adding yet another dimension to this long-standing community tradition.
Fourth of July
Going hand-in-hand with the block party theme is the annual Fourth of July celebration held by the residents of Lillian Way, Cahuenga
Blvd. and Wilcox Ave. Established in 1998, this neighborhood holiday bash has turned into the granddaddy of neighborhood Fourth of July festivals.
The residents, who close off Lillian Way for the street-friendly gala, party until the sun goes down. The event features a red, white and blue decorated bike and wagon contest, a talent show, musical chairs, a three-legged race, water balloon toss and jump houses.
Local resident Garrett Nash serves as DJ while everyone enjoys the shared barbeque and music.
After the sun dips behind the Wilshire Country Club, the residents settle into their beach chairs to watch the club’s annual fireworks show.
Taste of Larchmont
You can’t have a street full of restaurants without having an annual tasting event, right?
Twenty-one years ago, neighbors decided to hold “Taste of Larchmont,” an annual event that raises money for HopeNet, which supplies food pantries at local houses of worship.
Not only have the local pantries benefitted, but local residents have benefitted as well.
“It’s a wonderful opportunity to stroll the Boulevard and meet up with friends, with the bonus of knowing that you are helping to fund HopeNet’s 13 pantries,” said Gillian Wagner, HopeNet board president.
The benefit allows patrons to sample Italian, Thai, Greek, French, Mexican and other cuisine. It also provides the community with an opportunity to sample drinks from Larchmont Wine & Spirits, Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf and Go Get ‘em Tiger.
For dessert, Babycakes, Baciami Café, Crumbs, Café Gratitude and others join in the fun.
Live music and entertainment, a silent auction and a raffle with prizes to local restaurants are often featured.
Larchmont Family Fair
If you have a child in your family, you probably already know that one of the most-anticipated community events of the year is the Larchmont Family Fair, held every October.
The late date on the calendar provides children with the perfect opportunity to dress in their Halloween best. But the original family fair started out quite differently.
Debuting in the 1960s, the original family fair took place in the evening in September. The nighttime-only event raised money for local charities (netting $800 its first year), and featured booths, games, folk dancers and carnival rides down the middle of the closed boulevard.
Today, the fair has grown into a day-long event, with water slides, a haunted house, talent show, a costume contest, pie-eating contest, a kiddie train, pony rides, a petting zoo, carnival rides and bubble rollers.
Local schools, service clubs, scout troops and religious and charitable groups host the food and crafts booths, which raise funds for each of their programs.
By Sondi Sepenuk