Setting up has begun on Ocean Front Walk for the 39th Annual Festival of the Chariots Parade. The event takes place in Venice tomorrow, starting at 10am.
Three ornate thirty-foot chariots will parade from the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium to a colorful festival site in the park on Ocean front Walk at Windward Ave.
Music, exotic Indian dance, and educational exhibits on bhakti-yoga and east-Asian culture will be part of the free exhibit.
There will be family and children activities, the popular Govinda’s Gifts tent, free yoga lessons, a variety of exotic and traditional vegetarian food tents, as well as a free feast booth to serve 10,000.
The free festival is hosted by the International Society for Krishna Consciousness and each year it continues to draw a crowd upward of 50,000 to Venice. First initiated in 1977 by Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, who instructed his disciples to hold a grand parade and distribute free vegetarian food as an offering to God, to share the love of God, as a part of the tradition of India.
During the parade the crowd sings and dances, as volunteers pull the chariots. The idea that the huge chariots are pulled simply by the devotional enthusiasm of the crowd. They contain no motors. It is the traditional rumor among festival goers that by pulling the thick ropes one is able to pull God close to one’s heart and drive out all unwanted things.
These same forms parade every year through the ancient seaside city of Jagannatha Puri, Orissa, India. The Los Angeles version of the Festival of the Chariots is inspired by this original version held in Puri for over a thousand years, attended by a crowd of one million annually.
A group of women will risk a citation on Aug. 23 when they march topless along the Venice Beach boardwalk. The march is part of an annual call for equal rights for women who want to go bare-breasted in public.
Topless women, joined by shirtless men, will walk from the northern end of Ocean Front Walk to the center of the boardwalk at Windward Circle, where a rally will be held urging lawmakers to allow women to go topless.
Lara Terstenjak is the head of the Los Angeles branch of GoTopless, the organization sponsoring the march, she says the movement plans to push further afield than just Venice, “We’re working toward freeing women’s nipples and obtaining equal gender topless rights that are enforced worldwide.”
In May supporters of Free the Nipple LA hit the sand, topless, at Venice Beach in a stand for gender equality. While the protest took the form of a relaxed day at the beach, eventually LAPD Mounted Unit did arrive on the scene and women exposing nipples where asked to cover up, or risk a citation.
“There was a guy there and when they told us we had to cover up one of the police officers said to him “Well you don’t have to cover your nipples” and I was like, that’s the point that we’re going for…” said Ali Marsh, activist for Free the Nipple LA.
Currently it is illegal for any female over the age of 10 years old to go bare-breasted in public.
In a 12-2 vote on April 21st this year, the Venice Neighborhood Council said it “supports women being afforded the same rights as men to sunbathe topless.”
Terstenjak noted that the while Venice Neighborhood Council approved the resolution in support of women going topless, such a change would require action by the city and the county.
“The Venice Neighborhood Council’s approval is a hopeful step forward after our eight years of activism on Venice Beach,” Terstenjak said. “Now it’s time for the city and county to follow up by making equal gender topless rights a priority.” said Terstenjak
“While I appreciate the idea and find it interesting, right now my priorities for Venice are increasing public safety and housing the homeless,” LA City Councilman Mike Bonin said in a statement.
There’s one Venice resident who has welcomed this weekend’s heat, his name is Rambo the Tortoise and together with his human buddy, Mike Salenko, Rambo is on a mission to spread the word about the threat to his species.
Used to high temperatures, Rambo is a Mojave Desert Tortoise. An endangered species who’s numbers are dwindling. Due largely to urbanization, in some areas, their numbers have decreased by up to 90%.
“As more and more houses are being built, and roads go in, it pushes the Mojave Desert Tortoise out of it’s natural habitat. Many of them get hit by cars. The lucky ones end up going to places like Joshua Tree Tortoise Rescue” says Salenko.
Salenko says he’s always had an affinity with Joshua Tree and when he heard about the plight of the Mojave Desert Tortoise he wanted to do something about it.
His first step, adopting Rambo. As it turns out there are a large number of these tortoises that can not be returned to the wild and need adoptive homes.
In spite of a lengthy adoption process, “I had to fill out forms, and take interviews so the people at Joshua Tree Tortoise Rescue could determine I was fit to be a tortoise parent ” says Salenko, it turns out tortoises are surprisingly low maintenance pets.
Rambo has now lived with Salenko three years. “I have a garden where he likes to wander around digging holes.” says Salenko.
When Rambo is not digging holes in the garden, or enjoying a tasty chunk of organic cucumber, he and Salenko hit Venice Beach and spread the word about Turtle conservation.
It seems, as crazy as a place Venice is, here a tortoise can stop traffic – for all the right reasons.
“We spend a lot of time on the beach” says Salenko “I just let Rambo wander around and people naturally gravitate towards him. They ask questions and together we’re able to inform and educate people about the Mojave Desert Tortoise.”
Similar to counting the rings around a tree stump to find out, with a tortoise you count the rings on it’s shell. Rambo is thought to be around 20 years old. As a tortoise like Rambo can live between 60-80 years, Salenko says he already has a succession plan in place “I’m really just Rambo’s caretaker, I’ve lined up my nieces to take him next, they’re one and a half and three, and they just love him”
For now Rambo and Salenko continue to turn heads on Venice Beach and spread the word about the plight of the species.
A year ago today 20-year old Nick Fagnano was fatally struck by lightning on Venice Beach. The strike, which witnesses say appeared to come out of nowhere, injured 13 others.
Today, from 11am until sunset a small group of family and friends will gather on Venice Beach at the volleyball nets at Driftwood Ave., near the south end of the Washington Blvd., parking lot at Venice Pier. to celebrate Fagnano’s life.
“So many people loved Nick” said his Mother, Mary Fagnano “When he used to work at the Ace Hotel in Downtown his nickname was Sparkles – he just lit up the room”
Monday’s gathering will celebrate Fagnano and the community he created throughout his life. It will also be an opportunity to reflect on the work that is being done in the young man’s name in the areas of education and recreation through the Thrive in Joy Foundation, and also, in beach safety.
On June 30, 2015, for the first time LA Country Lifeguards closed all beaches due to lightning, a precaution instituted after last year’s lightning strike.
A traditional day of beach activities has been planned for the memorial. Including, a picnic-style lunch, and dinner for family, friends, and supporters of the Thrive in Joy Nick Fagnano Foundation.
The day will also include two special tributes. One at 2:30 p.m.: marking the approximate time of the lightning strike last year. Friends, family, and anyone who happens to be in the area and wants to join the tribute are invited to join in forming the shape of a huge heart on the beach.
Then a sunset there will be a candlelight commemoration and celebration of Nick.
Fagnano’s Mother, Mary Fagnano, says the family feel very connected to the Venice Community and invite anyone who was effected by last years incident to come and join the gathering.
Monday also marks the first anniversary of the Thrive in Joy Nick Fagnano Foundation. The charity was created by Fagnano’s parents, Mary and Jay Fagnano in order to continue their Son’s impact on the world by encouraging and rewarding character through education and recreation.
So far this year the Foundation has built an endowment in Nick’s name providing an annual scholarship for a transfer student to USC’s Sol Price School of Public Policy whose mission is to “improve the quality of life for people and their communities here and abroad.”
The Foundation has also presented financial awards for outstanding character to a graduating student at Nick’s two alma maters: St. Brendan grade school in Los Angeles and Notre Dame High School in Sherman Oaks.
As well as providing support for two Dominican Republic projects: Collegio de Tia Tatiana, a school for preschool through high school students as well as Remar, an orphanage in one of the poorest urban communities in Santo Domingo.
The Foundation’s Dominican Republic initiatives where inspired by a charity drive for baseball equipment Fagnano had arranged when he was only 13. The young baseball fan and little leaguer was moved to action when he heard of young people in the Dominican Republic who were unable to play because they had no equipment.
Fagnano’s untimely death has brought an extended, eclectic group of family, friends, and community members together for the past year.