By Roger Linnett
What started out as a neighborhood potluck dinner three years ago has grown into a legitimate Venice event the likes of which distinguish the Venice community for its outreach, charity and citizenship.
The Third Annual “Feed the Beach” free Thanksgiving Dinner went off without a hitch on Thursday, November 26, thanks to a special, dedicated group of sponsors, around 200 volunteers and a few key people that stepped up to help satisfy local city requirements. From 12 noon until a little after 3 p.m. any and all who stopped by Ocean Front Walk at Westminster Ave. were served up a complete turkey dinner with the works.
The original sponsors of the “Feed the Beach” events are the 12 local food merchants that line Westminster Ave. from OFW to Speedway, four in the Waldorf Building and eight in the International Food Court across Westminster. They were also the same group that initiated the short-lived “Third Wednesdays” events, that were shut down by the city and the local police over permit and insurance issues this past summer. “Third Wednesdays” began with the same idea as Abbot Kinney Blvd.’s “First Friday,” said Fruit Gallery owner James Merced, namely to help increase business for a few hours along their little piece of the boardwalk. And just like the “Third Wednesdays,” this year’s “Feed the Beach” event seemed targeted for oblivion on the scrapheap of city bureaucracy. But then something marvelous happened – local officials with clout got in the game.
The Venice Neighborhood Council’s vice president, Linda Lucks, interceded with the city, with the help Arturo Pena and John Gregory of Councilman Rosendahl’s office to find the funds to cover the costs of the permits and insurance needed to green light the feast. “We only got our permits on Tuesday, although they had been in the works for some time” said a grateful Merced, in light of the “Third Wednesdays” fiasco.
“We estimated there would be around 300 to 500 people,” said Nina Merced, co-owner of Fruit Gallery and wife of James, “but we figure we fed almost 700 people.” ” We intended to finish at 2 p.m., but we had people in line until about 3:15,” she said. And remarkably there was still enough food to feed them all.
The Venice-Marina Rotary Club, led by treasurer Tom Ryan, supplied 25 cooked turkeys and helped prepare and serve with a group of Rotary volunteers. The owners of the Waldorf Apts. contributed $250 and a local apartment manger, Frank Lutz, who had opposed the “Third Wednesdays” events, contributed $100 and a couple of turkeys. Several businesses stepped up with food donations this year including Big Daddy’s, The Sidewalk Cafe, Danny’s Restaurant and Whole Foods. Musical entertainment was provided alternately by guitarists Vinnie Caggiano and Michael Jost.
“If it keeps going like this, next year we’ll need to get better organized about our use of space between Ocean Front and Speedway,” said Merced, “but being seen as legitimate by the city and all, that really makes everyone involved feel good because we don’t have to fight city hall to do something good.”