LOOKING BACK–Fiesta La Ballona — then, now and always

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Fiesta La Ballona began in 1951 as a partnership between the Culver City Chamber of Commerce and City of Culver City. It was designed as a weeklong celebration of Culver City’s heritage, with an emphasis on the two ranchos from which our city was carved, Ranchos La Ballona and Rincón de los Bueyes.

The Fiesta was designed to offer something for everyone, from young to old, swimmers to dancers, and descendants to recent arrivals. Evening events included an Aquacade in our newly opened “plunge,” happenings like a Teen Dance, Barbecue, or Square Dance, and a show onstage in our Veterans Memorial Auditorium. Centered around Veterans Memorial Building and Park, it also offered an Art Show, Garden Show, and even a Kiddie Parade, which showcased parents’ ingenuity with little red wagons, props and their costumed kids. (Oh, how I wince, just thinking of the year I had to wear a mustache and pull my little brother Carlos and cousin Charlotte.)

On the weekend, a community parade made its way from Higuera, (named for one of the owners of Rancho Rincón de los Bueyes), to Vets Park. Representatives from the Early Settler families, like Machado, Talamantes, Higuera, Lugo, Saenz, and Rocha, dressed in costume to ride in vintage vehicles. (I was not crazy about the mantillas, either!)  Some years they were horse-drawn buggies, while others offered a Model  “A” or “T.”

Equestrians were greatly admired, and our Sheriff, Eugene Biscaluz, was a regular participant in the parade, just like the Pitti family. “Floats” ranged from decorated bicycles to trucks, and musical entries enhanced the celebratory mood. Marching units like bands, Scouts and other organizations added to the fun.

The Chamber of Commerce even hosted the check-in point where Mustache Contest participants were photographed with their clean-shaven upper lips on the start date. Other contests gave the community a Fiesta Queen and court at two age levels.

Early Fiestas were inclusive celebrations of family and local heritage. Participation was widespread. Ingenuity yielded locals dressed as Native Americans, Rancheros, Señoritas, Cowboys or Cowgirls! People dressed the part especially on the Friday of Fiesta week, or risked being picked up in the “Pokey!”  Once the Historical Society was established (1980), they provided docents in partnership with a city bus for free bus tours of the city, which often included Patricia Culver Battle, Harry Culver’s daughter as a special guest.

Over time, the August weeklong event changed with the times. It has been celebrated in May, was a “Festival of the People” for a short time, but no matter what month, or how many days the event, it remains a time to relax together, enjoy family, friends and community.

This year, the Fiesta dates are Aug. 28-30; one of the many opportunities Culver City offers to enjoy our community. Stop by the Culver City Historical Society Archives (noon-4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday) to see a special exhibit from ‘the olden days”- including dresses worn by the Fiesta Court.

LOOKING BACK–Fiesta La Ballona — then, now and always