More than 1,000 people attended the first Festival Beverly Hills on March 12, which transformed the city’s farmers’ market into a cultural celebration filled with music, dancing, food and art.
“I thought it was incredible,” Human Relations Commission chair Noelle Freeman said. “It was the first time the city and community came together to celebrate all of the different cultures that make us one community.”
The festival paid tribute to springtime holidays Nowruz, the Persian new year, and Holi, a Hindu tradition celebrating good’s triumph over evil. It also featured Latin dance performers, cooking competitions, art exhibitions and puppeteers, Freeman said. Mayor Lili Bosse, one of many elected officials and city leaders who attended the festival, posted a video to social media playing a xylophone and speaking with an Iranian artist about his painting.
“I think for our first festival, it exceeded everyone’s expectations,” Bosse said. “We have a very diverse city of different cultures, and it was an opportunity for everybody to see themselves as part of our community. That’s why we love our city so much, because we feel like we’re a family that embraces each other.”
Freeman said that holding the festival in conjunction with the weekly farmers’ market played a big role in its success. The city did not have to hire extra staff or block additional streets to host the festival, and the event brought more attention to the market, she said.
“I saw a totally different crowd than I usually see at the farmers’ market, like young families. As a young resident and property owner in the city, that’s a huge win in my book,” she said.
The youthful turnout was also a result of collaborations with the Beverly Hills Unified School District, Freeman added. One of her favorite memories from the festival was judging a charcuterie board contest amongst students in the Beverly Hills High School’s Culinary Arts program, who sourced their ingredients from different stalls at the market.
Another standout moment was when an audience watching a troupe of Latin dancers began showing off moves of their own, Freeman said.
“It was the epitome of what these events are designed to do,” Freeman said. “Little moments like that really filled the entire day. Despite the haze in the beginning, we brought the sunshine.”
Both Freeman and Bosse said the city plans to hold cultural festivals for years to come, and Freeman said the inaugural event showed organizers ways to improve future iterations.
She suggested simple logistics changes like starting the festival later in the day, and also said the city should boost its marketing efforts. Freeman attended a birthday party at a friend’s house in the city the night before the festival, and no one at the party knew about it, she said.
Another struggle is ensuring all cultures are represented, which was made difficult without adequate funds to pay performers, she added.
“My ask is for there to be funding for this so we can do right by our community and have equitable representation,” Freeman said.
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