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Thousands expected Saturday in celebration of Los Angeles' founding

Thousands are expected to flock to downtown Los Angeles on Saturday afternoon to celebrate the city's 234th birthday, with a special service scheduled at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angeles, organizers said.

The 3 p.m. Mass at the cathedral will be led by Los Angeles Archbishop Jose Gomez.

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Afterward, a float featuring a statue of the Virgin Mary and an infant Jesus will lead performers and attendees to Our Lady Queen of Angels Church, nicknamed La Placita, a few blocks north of the cathedral.

"Balloons are being blown up; flowers are being brought in," said Mark Anchor Albert, founder of the Queen of Angels Foundation, an association of Catholic laypeople that is sponsoring the event.

The procession will feature a variety of performers, including Aztec dancers, color guards and a Catholic high school band.

"Our goal is essentially to represent all of the different key communities in Los Angeles," said Adrian Marquez, spokeswoman for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.

After the procession arrives at La Placita about 5 p.m., there will be a blessing by Archbishop Gomez, Albert said. There also will be cupcakes and mariachi music in the plaza to celebrate.

La Placita holds a special place in the city's early history, having been the first church built in Los Angeles.

"We expect this to be like our version of the St. Patrick's Day parade, or New Orleans Mardi Gras," he said. "That's our goal: to bridge differences, heal wounds, mend fences and bring our entire multicultural community together."

A couple thousand have attended the celebration in previous years, said Albert, who added that he expected similar numbers Saturday afternoon. He advised attendees to bring an umbrella to keep off the August sun.

The event, the fifth since the yearly celebration began in 2011, is meant "to remind and teach the public about the deepest historical roots of their homeland and also to bring the multicultural community together," Albert said.

Albert stressed that the celebration was meant for all Angelenos — Catholic or not, rich or poor, documented or undocumented. Many of the 44 "pobladores" who originally founded the city in 1781 were black, Native American or of mixed ancestry, he said.

"People of all colors … these were the original founders of Los Angeles," he said.

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