Heat Cuts Attendance, Adds to Trouble at Fair

The extremely hot weather held down attendance and contributed to an unusual amount of trouble at last weekend's Sunset Junction Street Fair in Silver Lake, police and fair organizers say.

Most of the trouble involved fights among gang members from outside the area who had drunk too much, said Los Angeles police Sgt. Mario Mojarro, who supervised police at the fair. "On hot days, people drink more," he said.

Mojarro said at least eight fights were reported at the annual fair, which in its previous five years gained a reputation as being generally peaceful. Six people were arrested at the fair on Saturday, most for drunkenness, and several people were taken to local hospitals as a result of injuries in the fights, he said. No incidents were reported Sunday.

A police officer suffered a minor cut on one arm Saturday from a beer bottle wielded by a man who had just thrown another bottle through the windshield of the officer's car and then was chased by the patrolman, police said. The assailant was charged with assault with a deadly weapon against a police officer.

Coordinator's View

Thom Rafter, one of the fair's coordinators, agreed that the heat and resulting increase in drinking caused some problems. But he stressed that the overall festive mood was not disturbed and that most fair participants were not aware of any trouble.

Rafter said he thought that police may have overreacted to some incidents. For example, he said, seven patrol cars and two police helicopters responded to a report of a fight Saturday night. "That was insane," he said. In most cases, he said, incidents were better off being handled by volunteer monitors at the fair, who worked to calm people down. Tempers were raised by such a strong police reaction, he said.

Mojarro said he had 12 officers on duty each day at the fair. He said he would recommend doubling that number next year because of this year's troubles.

Rafter said that fair organizers and police met on Sunday morning and that, as a result, things went much more smoothly that day.

Heat Cuts Attendance

Although evenings were crowded, he said, temperatures that reached 102 degrees on Sunday sharply cut daytime attendance. Rafter estimated that 200,000 people attended over the two days, about 50,000 fewer than last year and about 100,000 fewer than organizers had hoped would go.

Reflecting a dip in attendance, about $40,000 worth of beer was sold at this year's fair, only about $1,000 more than last year, even though the price per glass was raised from $1 to $1.25, Rafter said.

The fair, along five blocks of Sunset Boulevard from Bates Avenue to Edgecliff Drive, was founded in 1980 to improve relations between gays and Latinos in Silver Lake. Over the years, it has become a celebration of the area's polyglot population. Profits are split among 12 co-sponsoring organizations, which include youth recreation centers, gay counseling groups, a health clinic and a senior citizens activities program.

Copyright © 2019, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World