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5 fun spring festivals on a budget in L.A. County

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1. Mardi Gras at the L.A. Farmer’s Market

The Original L.A. Farmer’s Market at The Grove is celebrating Mardi Gras this year with their 25th annual parade, including traditional bead-throwing, beer-guzzling, and having a grand old time. (Minus the topless college girls!) Mardi Gras is traditionally a time of indulgence before the religious fasting period of Lent happens in many Christian churches. Cajun food and live jazz and Zydeco music will be provided, as well as face painting and crown decorating for kids. Be sure not to miss the pet parade and costume contest as well! The event is free, though the food is not, and runs March 1, 2, and 4 (Fat Tuesday). Check out the website at http://www.farmersmarketla.com/events/eventDetail/25th-Annual-Mardi-Gras....

2. Holi

Holi, a religious spring festival from India, is celebrated every year by people throwing dry colored powder at each other and shooting each other with squirt guns. Though it started out as a religious Hindu festival, many secular people have started joining as well. The colors are supposed to represent kindness, forgiveness, and victory of good over evil. It’s definitely messy—the squirt guns often set the colors on clothes—so wear the oldest pair of track shoes and most torn up white t-shirt you don’t mind ruining. It’s essential to wear white; the colors stand out the most on white clothes. This year Holi falls on March 8. The festival runs from 11 am-6 pm in Norwalk and no outside color powder is allowed. Adults are $5, kids under 12 free. If you’re feeling like a road trip, the Holi festival in Spanish Fork, Utah from March 29-30 in front of the Krishna Temple is the largest Holi festival in the Western Hemisphere. Visit the website at http://www.festivalofcolorsusa.com.

3. The Cherry Blossom Festival

Every year during the spring, the Japanese community comes together to celebrate cherry blossoms, a tree native to Japan, at the Descanso Gardens in La Cañada Flintridge. The event hosts a live band, origami, and guided tours through the gardens. Cherry trees will be sold on site and visitors can eat at the Camellia Lounge, which offers a variety of foods that are also found in Japan. The event will take place on March 22 and 23, 9 am to 5 pm. Admission cost has yet to be announced. Check online in the near future for prices. If you can’t make it to the Descanso Gardens, There’s also a free Cherry Blossom Festival in Monterey Park on April 26 and 27, where you can see traditional Japanese dance and sumo wrestling. Check out the websites at http://ci.monterey-park.ca.us/index.aspx?page=812 and http://www.descansogardens.org/calendar/cherry-blossom-festival/.

4. The Renaissance Pleasure Faire

The Renaissance Pleasure Faire takes place every year in Irwindale at the Santa Fe Dam Recreation Area. It’s just what it sounds like: people dressed up in Renaissance-style clothes, speaking Old English. But it’s not required dress, just encouraged, so if that’s not really your area of interest, they have a cornucopia of booths peddling jewelry, glass, metal designs, and masks. There is a large food court in the center serving onion blossoms, Greek food, fruit ice, and drumsticks, not to mention a hefty selection of beers and ciders. Performances take place throughout the Faire, including jousting tournaments and the Queen’s procession. This year, the Faire runs on weekends from April 5 until May 18, 10 am-7 pm. Adult tickets are $28, kids are $15, and 4 and under are free, but you can definitely find group deals and early bird sales online. Visit the website at http://www.renfair.com/socal/.

5. 25th Annual Fiesta Broadway Street Fair

In early celebration of Cinco de Mayo, Los Angeles shuts down Broadway from Olympic to 1st Street for a mile-long street fair including food, music, and stage performances. This is a great event for kids, too, because there are numerous games and giveaways. Cinco de Mayo is a Mexican and Mexican-American holiday celebrating freedom and commemorating the Mexican army’s defeat over far more numerous French forces in 1862. Fiesta Broadway is the largest Cinco de Mayo celebration in the world and occurs on Sunday, April 27th, from 11 am to 6 pm. Admission is free! Visit the website at http://fiestabroadway.la.

Beads are thrown during Mardi Gras to celebrate Fat Tuesday.
Beads are thrown during Mardi Gras to celebrate Fat Tuesday. http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Mardi_Gras_beads_metallic_style.jpg

Beads are thrown during Mardi Gras to celebrate Fat Tuesday.

Beads are typically thrown from parade floats during Mardi Gras to celebrate Fat Tuesday, the period of indulgence before the religious fasting holiday Lent. 

Holi
Holi http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Holi_Celebrations_at_UC_Berkeley,_April_3_2010.jpg

Holi

Students at UC Berkeley get together to celebrate Holi, and Indian religious holiday to welcome spring and embrace kindness, forgiveness, and renewal.  Participants throw colored powder at each other in most celebrations.

Cherry Blossoms
Cherry Blossoms http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Cherry_blossom_festival.jpg

Cherry Blossoms

The cherry tree is a plant native to Japan that blossoms every year around spring in a vivid display of color.  The Japanese community celebrates this season every year in LA with several festivals dedicated to Japanese food, music, dance, and martial arts.  

Renaissance Knight
Renaissance Knight http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Renaissance_fair_-_tournament_05.JPG

Renaissance Knight

Renaissance Faire's frequently sport theatrical jousting events that divide the crowd into teams to root for certain knights.  However, they can be a bit graphic for the younger crowd, so be sure children are old enough to handle the (fake) violence.

Ballet Folklorico
Ballet Folklorico http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Cinco_de_Mayo_dancers_in_Washington_DC.jpg

Ballet Folklorico

Ballet Folklorico dancers are fixtures at many Latino celebrations and parades, and their bright attire is accentuated ruffles, flowers, and bows while they perform traditional Mexican dance.

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