Like a thousand other fledgling bands in Southern California, the three members of Joie De Vivre were looking for a break. They got one during last year's Whittier Village Festival and Street Fair, and the crowd's reaction bolstered the young musicians' dreams of fame and success. Then a war got in the way.
The band's drummer, Chris Schaefer, a 22-year-old sergeant in the U.S. Army, volunteered for action in the Persian Gulf. He finished his Army service just three weeks ago.
From January to May, Schaefer was stationed near Hafar al Batin in Saudi Arabia as a liaison officer for an Army field hospital, where he helped keep track of wounded soldiers. Although he was not on the front lines himself, Chris could see the fighting and he witnessed the war's bloody results.
"I've never been so scared before," he said of his Persian Gulf duty.
Meanwhile, back home in Whittier, his younger brother, Mark, was working with next-door neighbor Felice Hernandez to polish Joie De Vivre's original music and its dance-oriented sound. Mark is the band's keyboard player and Felice is the lead vocalist.
Now, Joie De Vivre is preparing for its second chance. It seems only fitting that its musical reunion will be at this year's 12th annual Whittier Village Festival, whose theme is a welcome home to Whittier's Persian Gulf troops.
That theme will be highlighted at noon Saturday during opening ceremonies for the two-day festival, which will also feature more than 250 commercial exhibitors, artists, artisans and community organizations. Their booths will occupy almost a mile of Greenleaf Avenue and Philadelphia Street in Uptown Whittier from Saturday morning through the evening of July 14.
The family-oriented festival also will feature prize giveaways, free telephone calls, international cuisine and live broadcasts by KRLA radio on Saturday. The Eliminator, a monster truck, will be on display July 14.
But the main reason for the festival continues to be entertainment, said Casey Hazelton, executive director of the Whittier Uptown Assn. To that end, four different stages will be occupied over the two days by hundreds of musicians, dancers, magicians and other entertainers. Most of the acts are from the Whittier area.
Saturday's performances begin at 10 a.m. and continue until 11 p.m. On July 14, entertainment begins at noon and continues until 8 p.m. For a complete schedule or other information about the festival, call the Whittier Uptown Assn. at 696-2662.
As for Joie De Vivre, the band will perform Saturday and again Sunday afternoon. Maybe it will be the start of something big. Then again, maybe not. Now that Chris Schaefer's regular tour of duty has ended, he has joined the Army Reserve, and he has no doubts about what he would do if another war erupted.
"If my country needs me, I'll be there," he said.