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Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti set to jazz up Sylmar Olive Festival

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When the Sylmar Olive Festival opens this Labor Day weekend, olives may be the theme of the event but the festival’s real focal point is much more far-reaching. What with its line-up of local entertainment, chalk artists, vendors and more, the entire festival is really a tribute to community.

True, there was a time when Sylmar was olive country. The industrious Italian immigrant Cristo Fusano is credited with having built up the olive industry here, and to this day, there is even an avenue named after him.

However, since Fusano emigrated here more than 100 years ago, naturally, things have changed. The city of Los Angeles, which includes Sylmar, has grown to be the second largest city in our nation with a population that hovers close to 4 million people.

Nevertheless, there is an obvious sense of pride and unity that enables people from places like Sylmar to work together to create public celebrations that retain a small town flavor.

As with any civic event, a visit by a politician is nothing out of the norm. When Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti makes his appearance at the festival on Saturday, his main task will be to honor and present awards to several outstanding community members.

But given that Garcetti is also a skillful musician, Sylmar Olive Festival organizers were eager to get the mayor involved in some other less traditional way.

So when Positive Source Band performs on the main stage at around 3:00 this Saturday, August 30, there will be a most familiar face joining the group on keyboard…namely, Mayor Garcetti!

The band is scheduled to play, among other numbers, “Best of My Love” by The Emotions, a song that was composed by Maurice White and Al McKay of Earth, Wind & Fire and released in 1977. Singer Jeanette (Hutchinson) Hawes, a former member of The Emotions, is set to make a special appearance at the festival, as well as several other notable performers.

This will not be the first time that Garcetti jams with the band.

Last year, while on a scheduled visit to Pacoima, he first met the band just as they were about to play at a local park. Well, one thing led to another--and in the next impromptu moment--Garcetti was performing, too.

The band’s drummer Shane Coleman said Garcetti’s genuine affability demonstrates he is more than just an ordinary politician.

“He is such a nice person,” said Coleman. “You can see he really cares.”

As founder of Heroes of Life, a local non-profit organization, Coleman knows a bit about what it means to care. Since 1992, his organization has been dedicated to helping others. Through various programs offered by Heroes of Life, including classes in the performing arts, as well as instruction in the technical aspects of production, participants are empowered to improve themselves, oftentimes, enabling them to earn a better living.

In fact, some of the vendors at the Sylmar Olive Festival will be young people from Heroes selling their wares and learning the basics of entrepreneurship through practical experience.

Indeed, Coleman is among those community leaders who take pride in seeing others’ progress.

“It’s a beautiful reminder to know that I helped shape and change their lives for the better,” he said.

(The Sylmar Olive Festival will run from Saturday, August 30th through Monday, September 1st at El Cariso Park, 131000 Hubbard Street, Sylmar 91342. Hours of operation are noon until 8:00 p.m. Click here to visit the festival’s Facebook page.)

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