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Thousands turn out for Night on Broadway festival

Thousands turn out for Night on Broadway festival
Arali Wickramasinghe, and her mother, Piyumie Wickramasinghe, were among those who attended the Night on Broadway festival Saturday night. (Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)

Stepping foot inside the historic Los Angeles Theater, MaryJo Campbell immediately looked up at its French baroque interior.

She marveled at the grand central staircase, crystal fountain and gold brocade drapes.

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"Pictures just don't do it justice," she said. "It's phenomenal — the architecture, the decor."

It was Campbell's first time inside the theater, built in 1931. It was also her first time at the fourth annual Night on Broadway, a music and arts festival held Saturday night in downtown Los Angeles.

The free street festival featured access to Broadway's historic theaters, music on four outdoor stages, carnival rides, food booths and arts and crafts activities.

Last year it drew about 75,000 people.

New Wave pioneers the B-52s headlined the festival. Other musical acts included War, La Santa Cecilia and Immaculate Conception. Broadway, long considered downtown L.A.'s real main street, was closed to vehicle traffic between 1st Street and Olympic Boulevard.

The event marked the 10th anniversary of Los Angeles City Councilman Jose Huizar's "Bringing Back Broadway" initiative, a 10-year plan to boost economic development along the once-bustling thoroughfare.

Campbell, who lives in Monrovia, went at the urging of her son, who has attended all four years. She stayed to see War perform songs from her youth.

"It's nice to see the lights," she said. "I hardly ever come down here at night time."

The festival featured a girls roller derby competition. Food trucks served up chicken adobo, crab cakes and masala fries. The L.A. Barber College offered free haircuts.

A Ferris wheel was set up near 6th Street. A busker played drums over top 40 hits nearby. Farther ahead, crowds gathered at the Palace Theater to watch burlesque performers.

Back at the Los Angeles Theater, Gayle Ikemoto, 59, marveled at the grand details but was saddened to see chips and cracks in the walls. The theater closed in 1994 but is rented for special events. It's listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

"We need to invest in restoring these and keeping them alive," Ikemoto said. "It's a heritage."

Near 4th Street, music blared from the DTLA Proud Block Party. Families with children, groups of friends and drag queens filled the street, danced and posed for photos in front of a rainbow "PROUD" sign.

Ramon Ibarra, 29, volunteered at the DTLA Proud Festival booth. He was glad to talk to people, hand out fliers and raise money for the upcoming festival in August.

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"It represents not just the LGBT community but everyone in Los Angeles," he said. "We all get to be a family."

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