Harry Culver’s goal to make Culver City a family-friendly place to live
In 1951, Culver City’s Chamber of Commerce originated “Fiesta La Ballona” as a summer celebration of local heritage. Culver City was carved primarily from Ranchos La Ballona and Rincon de los Bueyes and descendants of the families who owned these ranches were honored citizens.
The fiestas were designed to be inclusive events that brought together the business and residential populations. Local celebrants could select from a weeklong menu of events, including a parade, square dancing, a teen hop, baseball games, barbeques, the crowning of the Fiesta Queen and her Court and even a “Wiskerino Contest” in which all participants were required to show clean-shaven faces when picking up their entry forms.
FIESTA LA BALLONA
There was something for everyone and locals enjoyed dressing the part of Native Americans, rancheros, senoritas, cowboys and cowgirls. Those who didn’t dress up on the Friday of the weeklong fiesta might have been subjected to a ride in the “pokey” on wheels provided by the local police.
One of the highlights of the week was the Fiesta parade. Floats, marching bands, scout troops and mounted horsemen in festive costumes moved down the boulevard to lively music. The Fiesta Queen rode with her Court while local clubs such as the Downtown Merchants Association displayed their floats. Descendants of the early settlers rode in vintage cars and horse-drawn buggies. In keeping with Culver City founder Harry Culver’s goal to make Culver City a family-friendly place to live, the City’s Parks and Recreation department also sponsored a “Fiesta Kiddie Parade,” with costumed children pulling handcrafted “floats” made out of wagons. They were tributes to the parents’ creativity and included memorable entries such as “Mamacita’s Tamale and Tortilla Wagon.”
Although the City and its Chamber of Commerce coordinated almost all of the festivities, many local organizations sponsored events or helped defray the cost of the Fiestas, such as selling chocolate bars with the Fiesta insignia or holding pancake breakfasts as the Kiwanis Club did. Today, Culver City has ensured the continuation of the time-honored tradition by holding the Fiesta La Ballona event each summer during the last weekend in August. While there is no longer a parade and few residents dress up in costume, the fun-filled weekend is well-supported by local businesses and the community and offers carnival rides, live music, the and various children’s performances, food from Culver City’s world class restaurants, pony rides and even a dunking tank sponsored by the Culver City Police Department.