Ventura Blvd. Fair Provides Stress-Free Fun


No vendors were selling "I Survived the Street Fair" T-shirts in Sherman Oaks on Sunday, which is just as well.

The Sherman Oaks Street Fair and Carnival, which was supposed to produce monumental traffic jams and parking nightmares, turned out to be a relatively stress-free success.

"This is wonderful," said 34-year-old Sherman Oaks resident Lydia Altomare, who strolled the street with her mother and two sons. "The food's great, the fair's great and the vibes are great."

The event, which closed down a chronically congested section of Ventura Boulevard for 12 hours, drew about 14,000 people by midday Sunday to a two-block section of the major thoroughfare between Van Nuys Boulevard and Cedros Avenue. Organizers said numbers swelled well beyond that by the end of the day.

Los Angeles police, who canvassed the area with eight officers on foot and five members of a new bicycle patrol, said there had been no incidents or arrests. Department of Transportation supervisor Bob Blackmer, who had 20 engineers on hand directing cars away from Ventura Boulevard and into parking areas, said traffic operations were running smoothly.

"There was a lot of apprehension that the local community wouldn't support this, but it looks like just the opposite," said Councilman Zev Yaroslavsky, who represents Sherman Oaks. "It looks like they've embraced it."

Former critic Richard Close, president of the Sherman Oaks Homeowners Assn., said after attending the fair that he would support it as an annual event.

Close and neighbors had worried that closing down the San Fernando Valley's "Main Street" could clog streets and draw crooks. They were also concerned about the three-day carnival that ran in conjunction with the fair in a city parking lot at Cedros and Dickens Street.

Yaroslavsky said Sunday that he knew that it would be a gamble to close the street that handles 35,000 cars each Sunday, but believed that money raised for local schools made it worthwhile to take the chance. The Greater Sherman Oaks Chamber of Commerce, which organized the event, is splitting the proceeds with five elementary schools. It was not known Sunday how much money was raised.

In the end, many residents along Moorpark Street and Dickens said their fears had not materialized.

"We've been not unhappy about it," Joe Voorhees, 56, said as he gazed at the carnival from the balcony of his Dickens Street condominium. "If you close up the windows and turn on the air conditioner, you don't even hear it."

Voorhees said he had not been bothered by severe traffic or parking problems, and a security officer hired by the complex to patrol the corner during the carnival said there were no incidents.

Crowds thronged the street, gazing at the wares beneath a sea of bright-colored canopies. Waving to children, a clown traipsed among 160 booths on Ventura and a side street where food and crafts were sold. A human mannequin performed a robot-like Hollywood screen kiss with a member of the crowd.

But one of the most popular events was a fire engine that attracted hundreds of children, Fire Engineer Pat Valenzuela said. He told them what it's like to be a firefighter and taught basic fire safety skills.

But 5-year-old Josh Raff gained some useful information about fire trucks on his own.

"It has a lot of places to play in," he proclaimed to his father, Mitch, 32.

Others said the fair solved some domestic problems.

"We were getting sick of just hanging out with each other," said Sherman Oaks resident Darin Harvey, 28, attending the fair with his girlfriend. "We needed another element, new human beings."

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