L.A.’s cool summer hotspot

May 30, 2014 

Memorial Days's salsa fest set the stage for a fun-filled summer in Grand Park.

A crowd of 4,000 showed up to Grand Park for a salsa festival on Memorial Day, the unofficial start of summer. The dancers were sizzling, but the park is just getting warmed up— in the coming months, many more fun times are planned for downtown L.A.’s newest public space.

Park programming director Julia Diamond said she tries to cast a wide net when planning events.

“We go for a broad spectrum so that we can cater to a lot of different interests,” Diamond said. “We want people to have varied reasons to come into the park.”

The summer schedule includes three large events with smaller happenings that will take place on a regular basis. The first biggie is the 4th of July Block Party. After attracting 10,000 last year, Diamond is expecting closer to 25,000 in 2014. The event’s footprint will grow to match her expectation; several adjacent streets will be closed to accommodate the throngs. There will be DJs, live music, food and, of course, fireworks—but this year they’ll be shot from the roof of the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion so all of downtown can see the show.

After that, the next big date is July 26, when the park will celebrate National Dance Day with top performers in a variety of styles, plus a wet dance party in the park’s ever-popular splash fountain. Then, the final summer offering comes on September 28 when the Music Center presents “Universe of Sound: The Planets.” A huge tent with planetarium-style visual displays will be the setting for an interactive musical experience in which attendees will be able to conduct and play their own music as 132 live musicians perform Gustav Holst’s The Planets.

If you can’t wait until July, other fun is just around the corner—the first of four Sunday Sessions will take place this weekend, on June 1. The event will bring some of the top electronic dance music artists in SoCal to perform in a family-friendly environment so party people of all ages can get their groove on. And for those who want to create the beat themselves, “Drum Downtown” events offer percussionists of all skill levels a chance to beat the skins with guidance from pros. Equipment will be provided.

For the daytime crowd, “Lunch a la Park” brings a rotating cast of L.A.’s best gourmet food trucks on Wednesdays and Thursdays. After the workday, Grand Park’s Bootcamp can help work off any double bacon kobe sliders in which you may have indulged.

But sometimes families may just want to chillax at the end of a long summer day. The “Movies in the Dark” series hearkens back to the days of the double feature and adds games, contests and trivia competitions with prizes to the experience.

Not all events have been posted on the park’s website yet, so the best bet for those who want to attend is to keep tabs on the calendar or follow the park’s Facebook page.

It may sound like a lot of stuff will be going on, but Diamond says that the park has actually scaled back the number of events.

“We’re trying to get out of people’s way a little bit,” Diamond said. “We want people to use Grand Park just as a park.”

Diamond said the young park is starting to build solid regular attendance. The hot months of the summer are among the busiest, with the splash fountain offering a sweet way to beat the heat—and a safe place for kids to cavort while their parents kick back and sip iced lattes under palm trees atop the hot pink furniture.

Another major attraction is how photogenic the park can be. Between the Arthur J. Will Memorial Fountain, city hall and the gardens of blossoming flora from around the world, Grand Park has generated plenty of shutterbug enthusiasm, as can be seen on sites like Instagram, where its official account has more than 6,200 followers.

But Diamond hopes that when people leave they take more than snazzy snapshots with them. She wants Grand Park to become a place of nostalgia for Angelenos, a place they will remember years from now.

“I want to be in people’s memories at the end of the summer when they put that sweater on for the first time,” Diamond said. “I want them to remember that a high moment came at Grand Park.”

Kids play while parents take 5 at the park’s popular splash pad.


Posted 5/30/14

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