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‘A small Iowa town called Lomita’ is throwing itself a 3-day birthday bash.

Back in the 1960s, the folks in Lomita loved their little town just the way it was.

Veteran City Councilman Hal Hall, who arrived in 1941, said there were turkey farms in the 1950s, and in the ‘60s, some people still lived on several acres and kept rabbits.

He recalled the time that a woman objected to having her street paved: “She said that when she moved here, she had her chickens in the street and she still wanted to keep them there.”

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So there was more than a little consternation in the community when Torrance--a metropolis by comparison--annexed one part of Lomita and moved to take another.

“Incorporation” became a rallying cry on the lips of those bent on preserving Lomita’s small-town atmosphere and independence. And 25 years ago today, the city of Lomita--with control over zoning and development within its two-square-mile area--was born.

To celebrate its silver anniversary, the city is giving itself a birthday bash this weekend. Everyone is invited to the free party.

Things get under way tonight with an old-fashioned street dance at 7 p.m. in front of the Lomita Railroad Museum at 250th Street and Woodward Avenue. There will be country and Western music by the Randy Zane Grey group as well as a country fiddler.

“This is a fun-type thing on the farm and country theme,” said Bob Zinsmeister, manager of the Chamber of Commerce, which is sponsoring the anniversary celebration.

A festival Saturday and Sunday at Lomita Park, 244th Street and Eshelman Avenue, will feature arts and crafts ranging from jewelry to woodcarvings, food booths, rides and a petting zoo for children, and a classic car display. The festival is from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. on both days.

The celebration will end Sunday with a fireworks show at 9 p.m. at the park.

Zinsmeister said that for a long time, Lomita has had a one-day community celebration at the beginning of July to coincide with the anniversary of incorporation on June 30, 1964. Past events have included carnivals and salutes to the founders of the community.

But he said a silver anniversary “is sort of a milestone” and the city decided to go all out with a three-day observance complete with fireworks. Between 6,000 and 8,000 people are expected at the festival each day.

A town long before it was a city, Lomita was originally subdivided in 1907, and some early residents planned on creating a religious colony, according to local histories. But oil discovered in the 1920s made Lomita prosper--it even had its own bank--and large lots proved ideal for truck farmers raising celery and strawberries. In the 1930s, Lomita was dubbed the “Celery Capital of the World.”

The town gained a future celebrity in 1935 when one Frank A. Gumm operated the local theater. His daughter--better known as Judy Garland--performed there, along with her sisters, before she hit the silver screen.

World War II brought a population boom to Lomita as workers in nearby defense, refinery and harbor industries made the community their home.

Since incorporation 25 years ago, Lomita--a bedroom city with a population of 20,000--has seen a host of changes: Homes and apartment buildings have replaced small farms, mini-malls have sprung up on Pacific Coast Highway, and a modern Civic Center has supplanted the original storefront City Hall.

But Councilman Bob Hargrave, who was a child when his family moved to the community in 1943, said small-town Lomita has not vanished.

He said a couple of farms remain, including one that schoolchildren regularly visit to see geese and chickens, and horses are still kept in one area zoned for agriculture.

“I say to people that believe it or not, in the large metropolitan area of Los Angeles, there is a small Iowa town called Lomita where a lot of people know each other and seem to have an intimacy that most towns don’t have,” Hargrave said.

And, he said, the celebration is “to emphasize that we’re just plain folks with a lot to be proud of.”


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