Fiesta Broadway celebrates 27 years in downtown Los Angeles

The 27th annual Fiesta Broadway kicked off Sunday in downtown Los Angeles, with performances scheduled throughout the day by various Latin American artists, as well as carnival games and rides.

The festival is centered around downtown’s Civic Center, and runs until 6 p.m. Broadway and Spring Street are closed from Temple to 2nd streets.

Thousands turned out to enjoy performances from several Latin American artists as well Mexican food from local vendors. Some of the musical acts include Hermanas Arteaga, Villa 5 and Christian Felix.

Spectators gather in front of the main stage at Fiesta Broadway in Los Angeles on Sunday.

Spectators gather in front of the main stage at Fiesta Broadway in Los Angeles on Sunday.

(Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)

This year’s fiesta grand marshal is popular Mexican singer and actor Pablo Montero.

But some of those attending the free festival noted how it has changed over the years as downtown has changed. The event used to extend down Broadway from Temple Street to about 7th Street and drew tens of thousands.

Anthony Figueroa, 18, said he had been coming with his family to Fiesta Broadway for the last five years. During that time, he said, they’ve witnessed the festival grow more sedate, along with a steady dwindling of the crowds that used to throng downtown.

“We were talking about it on the ride here — that we noticed there wasn’t as many activities and it seemed a bit smaller,” Figueroa said Sunday as he walked down a closed-off section of 1st Street in front of Los Angeles City Hall. In the past, he said, “it felt a bit more populated, I guess.”

He said he still comes to the event because his parents like it. “Solo, I probably wouldn’t,” he said.

Ivth Gutierrez, who said she has run a shaved-ice concession at the fiesta for 24 years, had yet to see much business on Sunday as of lunchtime. She said she thought the event’s truncation at 2nd Street — because of subway construction — had choked off some of the event’s old liveliness.

“It used to be bigger,” she said. “Before it used to be all of Broadway, so it was one big street.”

David Sanchez, who came to the festival for the first time on Sunday to hand out literature for his Fontana church, had heard about the large crowds (several hundred thousand or more) that could be found at Fiesta Broadway in its heyday. He said he was surprised on his arrival to find six small blocks that were a long way from filling up.

“We’re kind of surprised at how empty it is,” Sanchez said. “It just seems like there’s not a whole lot of families out here.”

Patricia Lujar said she hadn’t had many customers at her concession for tortas, aguas frescas and bacon-wrapped hot dogs.

“The business is going really slow this year,” she said. “I see a lot of people, but they’re not stopping by.”

Yuji Sugiyama, 30, works at a bank downtown but rarely visits on the weekend.

“I came to this country 11 years ago,” said Sugiyama, who is from Japan. “Downtown was dead. There was no L.A. Live. There were no apartments.” Since then, he said, things have changed. “For millennials, downtown is kind of hot right now,” he said.

On Sunday, Sugiyama made an exception to his normal routine and decided to attend Fiesta Broadway for the first time. He took a train on the Expo line to downtown from his home in Culver City, expecting to find a crowd of 300,000, similar to those he had read about in past years.

At lunchtime, he stood at the corner of 1st and Broadway.

“It looks much smaller,” he said.