HERMOSA BEACH, Calif. — Fiesta Hermosa is back — but it’s going to cost you. For now.
The twice-annual downtown festival, traditionally scheduled for the Memorial Day and Labor Day weekends in the cozy oceanfront city of Hermosa Beach, has returned for Labor Day weekend 2021 after 2020 COVID cancellations.
This time, "Fiesta Hermosa Locale" comes with the notable addition of ticket prices for access to “The Garden,” the heart of this year’s Fiesta, which comes complete with carnival rides, food and drink and two music stages. Tickets are also being sold for admission to Locale 90254, a locally-minded “pre-party” planned for Friday night. But organizers expect this to be a one-time change and that ticketing shouldn’t return in later installments.
The changes, said Hermosa Beach Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Jessica Accamando, had two driving causes. First, the Chamber of Commerce counts on Fiesta as one of its big fundraising events; going without the festival in 2020 and the first half of 2021 was a punch to the pocketbook.
Secondly, ticketing was a way to restrict the sheer size of the event. An idea formulated when planning began in Spring 2021, not long after Accamando assumed leadership. “Our thought process was, there have been a lot of curveballs with COVID…we should plan cautiously, so let’s plan an event that would follow all the guidance that meets outdoor event requirements as of right this moment,” Accamando said. It was a prescient decision, given the spread of COVID’s delta variant now sweeping across Los Angeles County.
Twice in a typical year, Fiesta Hermosa closes the streets of downtown Hermosa Beach, replacing seaside traffic with dozens of booths, vendors and a food court, all making for a huge arts and crafts festival that bookends summer season. Past installments have paid tribute, but the realities of the pandemic-driven event restrictions forced organizers to plan for controlling capacity.
Hence splitting the festival into three areas: “The Lawn,” which is billed as featuring more than 100 art booths, “The Sidewalk,” where participating Pier Avenue-area businesses will host sidewalk sales throughout the weekend, and “The Garden,” the food and beer garden which is the only part of the festival that will charge admission. That section of the festival, Accamando said, has a set capacity, and organizers will keep a running count of everyone in the space at a given time. “Because we’re letting people come and go as they want, we’re only selling wristbands in the quantity that LA County Fire has set capacity for,” Accamando said.
There has been some consternation within the community over ticket sales; the event is, after all, well known as a free street fair. “A lot of people were frustrated immediately; some folks have suggested we’re being greedy,” Accamando said.
“The thing that I think got away from everyone over the past 15 years, or however long, is that it’s a fundraising event, and it’s not from the city — the city doesn’t pay for it, it charges for use of the space and for services,” said Dave Davis, co-owner of Hermosa Brewing Company, and a member of the Chamber of Commerce’s Executive Committee.
Davis said that he hopes that this reworking of the festival is just the beginning, “where next Fiesta we can have twice as many local creators.” Hermosa Beach, he believes, is the most creative of the three Beach Cities (including neighboring Manhattan Beach and Redondo Beach), but that Fiesta Hermosa had been taken over by the kinds of vendors seen at arts and craft fairs across the state.
What Davis wants to see is local business owners and community members who, driven by the pandemic, spin into new businesses and creative endeavors. “I think there’s more creativity than ever and more desire locally to support that,” he said.
But residents and Fiesta Hermosa fans shouldn’t expect to have to pay admission for future installments of the festival. When asked if the next Fiesta would also charge admission, Accamando first offered a flat “no,” before expanding.
“If you asked me a month ago, I would say that we’re exploring ticketed elements...but Fiesta is traditionally a free event for the community. I don’t want to change a tradition like that. This is unique for the circumstances,” Accamando said. “That said, we don’t know what will come of Locale 90254, the pre-party. That could come into a new tradition of its own. But for Fiesta? No. It’s just not a model we want to pursue.”
Fiesta Hermosa Locale takes place Sept. 4-6; single-day tickets for "The Garden" food and drink area start at $20. The separate Locale 90254 pre-party takes place Sept. 3; tickets are $25. For more information on Fiesta Hermosa Locale, including band lineups and vendors, visit fiestahermosa.net.