By Roger Linnett

The 5th Annual Venice Community BBQ and Picnic held at Oakwood Park July 16 was acclaimed a rousing success by all who attended. In addition to tons of great food and equally tasty music there were games and races and a jumper for the kids, a tug-of-war, a watermelon-eating contest and a food competition.

The BBQing duties were expertly handled again this year by the firefighters from Venice’s own Station #63, and the enormous, mobile MOAB (Mother Of All BBQs).  (You’d think those guys deal with enough smoke already, though, come to think of it, probably not as appetizing.)

A host of volunteers served up a wonderful array of “pot luck” side dishes, including various green and pasta salads, the essential and traditional baked beans and much more brought by a host of area residents to complement the BBQ’d chicken, pulled pork and hot dogs served up by the firemen and volunteers. A nice assortment of homemade cookies and cupcakes provided a sweet finish to the delicious meals.

A line of hungry Venetians, that snaked its way across the grassy field, barely diminished in length during the entire afternoon. Between 1,200 and 1,500 people were fed thanks to the efforts of the firemen, the volunteers and the donations by the event’s many Venice-area sponsors.

VNC President Linda Lucks served as M.C., introducing several featured speakers, including Deputy Mayor Larry Frank, who was pleased to announce that the city’s libraries, including our own Abbot Kinney Branch would return to a six day-a-week schedule starting July 18, due in large part, he said, to the employees of the City of L.A., who helped ease the city’s financial problems by making concessions in their compensation and benefits.

The ubiquitous Councilman Bill Rosendahl was on hand, and gave out four Certificates of Recognition to the BBQ Committee that included Barklie Griggs, who organized the BBQ portion of the event and spent two days prepping and cooking, Mindy Meyer, Daryl Barnett and Carolyn Rios of the VNC.

Part of the festivities included a competition and prizes for the best entry in several food categories. Ana Metcalf’s acclaimed 5-bean salad took the prize for best side dish, and Chad Mann won the best dessert prize for his sublime lemon bars. Also, the VNC conducted a raffle for some great donated door prizes, which included bottles of wine and a stay at the Hotel Erwin.

Music for the afternoon’s festivities was supplied by four musically distinctive, but equally polished, acts, perfectly suited to the occasion. Kicking off the fun was the New Bethel Baptist Church Choir – a wonderfully powerful and enthusiastic group whose joyful sound washed over the crowd like the warm breezes off the ocean and set the mood for a one-big-happy-neighborhood block party.

Following them was Alejandro and his guitar. Compared to the choir who filled the stage, Alejandro almost looked lonely on the big stage, but his clean, clear voice and rousing ‘n’ rocking artistry on the guitar matched them in volume and set the audience’s toes to tappin’ as he pounded out one upbeat pop classic song after another.

After the announcements and acknowledgements mentioned above, it was time for the Venice Kazoo Band, showcasing our abundant local talent. They were a perfect warm up for J.T. Ross and his blues band. They took the stage for a raucous set of authentic Chicago-style blues with J.T. on harmonica. Echoes of Paul Butterfield, Elvin Bishop and Mike Bloomfield charged the atmosphere and took the party up another notch.

Rounding out the afternoon’s musical tetrad was the 7-piece Ska/Reggae band, FuDogs. Combining spot-on covers of The English Beat, Elvis Costello and Chicago with some original compositions, FuDogs had a whole herd of folks, dubbed “The Grass Dancers,” and everyone else for that matter, hoppin’ and boppin’ to their infectious, brassy sound.

When it came time to call it a day, everyone gave the organizers, volunteers and firemen a rousing round of appreciative applause and then dragged themselves home for a late afternoon nap while a dedicated band of volunteers removed any sign of the good times, save the stage and huge canopy, until next year.

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