This Labor Day Weekend, Don Neal’s “Labor of Love” comes to fruition when the Sylmar Olive Festival opens in El Cariso Park. The three-day event will feature a conglomeration of things to see, do and enjoy: a parade, car shows, gourmet food trucks, beer and wine garden, arts and crafts vendors, Police & Fire Softball Tournament, food-eating contests, a Kids’ Corner, a chalk artist festival, and live entertainment, including jazz musicians, singers and dancers, both Folkloric and Aztec performers.
Concerned that the neighborhood of Sylmar had an identity crisis, Neal began pondering the idea of the festival more than two years ago. His goal was to promote the positive aspects of this area of Los Angeles. It made good sense to pick an olive-related theme for the event, because back in the 1900s when the California olive industry began to proper, the orchards in Sylmar were amongst the most prominent. Back then, there were an estimated 1,100 acres of flourishing olive orchards.
Intent on carrying out his plan, Neal, who is currently president of the Sylmar Neighborhood Council, began to mobilize a variety of other interested organizations and individuals. The list of those who helped put together the weekend festival could fill an entire article in itself. Suffice it to say that numerous people have joined together to help launch what Neal calls a “community building event.”
Artist Juliana Martinez is only one of the dedicated people who has been furiously working behind the scenes in order to make the Sylmar festival a big success.
For more than forty years, Martinez has been committed to creating art and has gained a solid reputation for her work in a variety of mediums, including her tile mosaics that can be seen throughout the city of Los Angeles.
For many years, she was a key figure in the Pasadena Chalk Festival, where she served as head of the Artist Committee; since she is also a chalk artist, she has built a certain camaraderie with a variety of other chalk painters.
So, when the prospect arose of including artists in the Sylmar Olive Festival, Martinez seized the opportunity. There was a snag, though. Without a budget to compensate the artists, she had to rely on her well-respected reputation to get other artists to commit to participate in the event.
The result of her commitment is that more than forty chalk artists will be on the festival scene creating a visual panorama guaranteed to impress.
Martinez boasts about the line-up. Indeed, she should. Because included in the festival will be renowned street painters such as Cecilia Linayao and Julio Jimenez, who won “Best in the Show” at “Arts in the Park” in Ventura, earlier this month.
As well, the buzz is building re the Featured Artists: Willie Zin, Lori Antoinette and Jay Tolentino. Says Martinez, newcomer and Junior Featured Artist Kimberly Brake Ayon is representative of the upcoming and talented group of young people who are joining the chalk artist phenomenon around the world.
On their knees hours at a time, often under relentless rays of sunshine, only to see their masterpieces deliberately washed away by street cleaners–chalk artists know the rigors of their game.
Martinez doesn’t even try to explain why they do it. She just says, “Once you try it, you’re either hooked or you never want to do it again.”
Guess theirs is a “Labor of Love”, too!
(The Sylmar Olive Festival will be held on Friday, September 1, Saturday, September 2, & Sunday, September 3, from noon until 7:00 p.m. at El Cariso Park, 13100 Hubbard Street, Sylmar 91342. General Admission is $5.00; Children under 12 are free. Certain attractions may require additional fees. Presale tickets are available at Hamer Toyota and several other locations.)