Happy Summer Solstice, Everyone! Ahhh, Summer, my favorite Season of them all ... and we actually got a little jump on it here in Venice, with the 1st (this Century) Neptune Parade and Festival on June 18th. The Neptune fun was bringing back the Venice tradition, that even instigator Danny Samakow (of Danny's Deli fame) was unsure of exactly when it began in the last century, but we're guessing around the 1920's.
King Neptune (played to the hilt this time by local actor and buff dude, David Frison), his Queen (Jessica, the Sugar Shack chanteuse) and his royal Mer-Court (Danny, James, Edizen, Poseidon Stand-Up Paddlers, Hula Hoopers, etc ...) would emerge from the crystal blue Pacific (NO June Gloom for the occasion!) to lead a parade across the sand and declare it officially SUMMER in Venice on land.
I went to the Breakwater at the given time (2:45) and saw no King Neptune, just a bunch of tourists, tanning and looking for shells. I thought I may have missed the whole deal, so headed back towards Danny's ... only to see the entire royal court emerging from the bar all riled up, blowing noise-makers, chanting and tossing out leis and Mardi Gras style beads. (I later learned the delay was due to Jameson shots. So I totally approve.) I had my friend, Amy, down from Hollywood, so this was the perfect thing to have her go back and report on Venice. I love this place.
Here's a perfect example of why - the sheer delight on each face that we passed, a complete surprise, most just wondering what the heck was going on at first (as is often the case here), and all just loving it every second.
We traipsed across the sand, with the procession led by a "Venice" sign hanging from two sticks carried by Mer-Pages. We blew our horns, someone banged a drum, everyone we encountered got a necklace, and then Neptune - with great fanfare - made his proclamation that it was now officially Summer 2011! It was kind of exciting, if I'm honest. As I mentioned before, I love Summer. A lot.
"Hail The King! Hail Venice! Hail Summer! Hail Yes!!!"
So went the refrain everyone yelled as we headed back to the Boardwalk, led by the King & Queen under the Venice sign that by now had a chunk out of the "N", but no one minded. The procession was slow-going, since by now everyone visiting Venice Beach this day that had a camera was stopping their Highnesses to get a photo with them. Again, no one minded. Just more time to yell, feel the fun, and laugh at the sunbathing topless girls with headphones on being startled by beads landing on them as this crazy band of Venetians passed by.
Once on the Boardwalk, the throngs left the other acts going on around to come see what all this Neptune commotion was about. There the King again declared it Summer for the landlubbers who did not catch it at wave's edge. It was just quintessential Venice, through and through.
About that - I spoke to Danny afterward, as he collapsed into the relative calm (though a still-chanting Court kept it lively) of his restaurant saying, "I feel like I just left a Fellini film!" Indeed, it had that tang. It was a great piece of guerilla theater, the surprise of it all being a big part of the charm. Danny is a great keeper of the Venice flame, and summed up his and his friends' feelings that bringing back some of the old time-y fun of Venice "keeps it true to the roots, while bringing it forward". As he said, "We want to stimulate the neighborhood to believe in itself." What a great sentiment for anyplace in the whole world to embrace!
These kind of jamborees do two things big and importantly - they support local artists (again, our roots. Er, along with gangs, of course. Respect.) and it builds tourist trade (which then circles back to support local artists again. Awesome).
The Venice parade participants were a little sparse this first time, but their roar was mighty, and the seeds were planted, for sure. May they ever grow!!!
Hail The King! Hail Venice!! Hail Summer!!!