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Abbot Kinney Festival 2017 - A Sunny Sunday to Remember

It started Thursday night with a hankering for ice cream. Not just any ice cream. Salt & Straw. And not just any flavor. Stumptown Coffee and Compartes Love Nuts. It was late, but when you have a craving this strong you can’t ignore it easily. Apparently, I wasn’t alone in my desire for dessert. A long line formed in the dark waiting for their chance to sample new flavors and indulge in old favorites. It was here in this line that I saw the poster for the Abbot Kinney Festival. I hadn’t been able to go in the years before. This would be the year. So with ice cream in hand I planned for Sunday.

This marked the 33rd year of the event held along the mile-long boulevard just blocks away from Venice Beach. The festival is the biggest fundraiser of the year put on by the Abbot Kinney Festival Association to support community-based organizations in Venice with a focus on art and youth in the area.

The weather was near perfect, a little warm, but nothing a pair of shorts and a T-shirt couldn’t resolve. I wasn’t sure what to expect as I walked from the marina to Venice. Would it be similar to the monthly First Friday food truck event? It wasn’t.

The street was blocked off between Venice Blvd all the way down to Pacific Ave. Typically this is already a very busy street with some of the finest restaurants and boutique retailers on the westside. The entrance on Venice had a large area dedicated to a free bike valet space in the hope to encourage locals to take two wheels instead of four. With extra limited parking available there weren’t many options for those a little farther way besides ride sharing or blind luck looking for a spot.

Getting there early was smart. The crowds grew steadily and quickly every hour. I stopped first at Lemonade for their Blood Orange namesake to help cool off and hydrate before navigating through the crowd. A seemingly neverending run of vendors lined both sides of the street broken up by blocks with groups of food trucks, stages, and beer gardens. This is where coming early really paid off since the line to purchase wristbands soon reached amusement park levels of length.

Three beer gardens offered festival goers of age a break from the crowd and the heat. The biggest had to be Bud Light’s area with a stage on Palms next to one of my favorite local watering-holes: The Brig. I checked it out, still finishing my lemonade and made my way further down the road looking for more. A few blocks down was LA brewery Golden Road who offered some delicious brews like their refreshing Wolf Pup Session IPA, a perfect end of Summer beer.

After a couple of drinks I was hungry and needed to satiate myself before continuing to quench my thirst of beer. It was tough deciding on what to get with so many choices available. Poke? Pizza? Street tacos? Dessert first? Soon the choice came to me as I saw multiple people carrying the same BBQ tri tip sandwich from The Outdoor Grill. Juicy cuts of meat slathered in sauce was exactly what my belly needed to keep me going.

The festival was a great way to get locals and visitors accustomed to the variety of shops and retailers on the boulevard that I’ve found usually closed early on First Fridays. Almost every brand represented themselves in front of their shops with amazing discounts that I couldn’t pass up at some of my go to establishments like Aviator Nation and Stag. For each vendor I recognized I found twice that I'd never seen before. This was a great way to find some of the best local artists showcasing their work and artisans displaying their crafts for the public.

There was one more stop to make before I departed back to the marina: the Firsestone Walker beer garden. I’ve been more giddy than I should be ever since the brewery opened up the Propagator just a few blocks away on Washington Blvd and seeing the 805 airstream on Abbot Kinney got me excited. The lineup included their well known classics like the DBA and Luponic Distortion. A personal favorite is the Propagator Gen-1 unfiltered West Coast Style IPA which has a real Venice spirit.

I walked home as the sun began to set on this year’s Abbot Kinney Festival. My hands full with bags of new finds from some amazing local vendors. My stomach full with good food and beer. My skin a slight tingly from probably not enough sunscreen from a daylong stay outside. My heart full of hope and anxiousness for next year. My craving satisfied.