West Adams cancels annual weekend jazz festival

By Darlene Donloe

Contributing Writer

WEST ADAMS — The West Adams Avenues Neighborhood Association has decided not to let the dreaded coronavirus stop them from socializing from a distance or moving forward with some of its neighborhood events.

 Unfortunately, its signature event, the annual West Adams Avenues Jazz & Music Festival which, for the last 19 years has taken place the weekend leading up to Labor Day, had to be canceled due to the virus.

The event, which normally takes place on a stage erected on 7th Avenue, is a well-established three-day soiree that usually attracts thousands throughout Los Angeles. Produced by the West Adams Avenues Neighborhood Association, it includes music from local jazz artists, dancing in the streets, activities for kids, food vendors, and arts, crafts and jewelry from local artisans.

“It’s disappointing that we couldn’t have it this year, but we will be roaring back in 2021,” said Donna Jones, co-chair of the West Adams Avenues Neighborhood Association, which stretches from Arlington to Crenshaw and Adams to the Santa Monica (10) Freeway on the south. “It was attended by people from all over Los Angeles. People came for the experience. This wasn’t just a neighborhood event. This is a diverse neighborhood that welcomes everyone.”

Although the jazz festival is canceled  this year, Jones, a retired LAUSD special needs teacher, said the West Adams Avenues Neighborhood Association, which has been in existence for about 25 years and is in a historic preservation zone, has chosen to make the best of a situation that is “out of our control.”

To honor essential workers, Jones said every night on 7th Avenue, from 8-8:05 p.m., the neighborhood shows its appreciation by banging pots and pans, clapping their hands, and playing inspirational music for encouragement.

“Some homes are even decorated with Christmas lights, party lights, and even wreaths as a sign of encouragement,” Jones said. “We want it to be festive. We don’t want the atmosphere to be dismal. Every night I beat on my own skillet and play hero songs for 20 minutes like ‘You Are My Hero’ and ‘Wind Beneath My Wings.’

“We want to celebrate the essential workers who get up every day and help others. It’s aimed at the mail people, doctors, nurses, grocery store workers, and anyone else who is out there helping and doing their part. People walking home and walking their dogs say they enjoy it.”

On Memorial Day, the association planned a neighborhood house-decorating contest with a $100 grand prize.

“We couldn’t actually get together so everyone quarantined in their own yards and had picnics,” said Jones, the association’s chair for the last 10 years.

“We supplied burgers and fries for the neighborhood from food trucks. We brought in a DJ, and people danced in their own yards. We couldn’t do what we usually do, but we all still wanted to do something together, so we could talk, laugh and see each other. We made sure to social distance. It was a super day.”

Until recently, the neighborhood, one of the largest historic districts in Los Angeles known for its Victorian, Craftsman, Colonial, and Queen Anne architectural styles, was a frequent recipient of Hollywood productions.

“We have regular film shoots,” Jones said. “They shoot lots of commercials here as well.”

Jones said in the past the Hallmark Network decorated an entire street to shoot a Christmas scene. The television shows “Bones,” “NCIS” and “Six Feet Under” have also shot in the area. An Allstate commercial was also shot there as well as director Ava DuVernay’s film, “A Wrinkle In Time,” shot on 4th Avenue and 25th Street.

“Our area is very popular for filming because the homes are large and we have wide streets,” Jones said. “There is an impact on everyone when filming occurs. When someone’s house is used, they give a donation to the association. That money helps us to do a number of things for the young people like fund the Park Art Program at 2nd Avenue and 24th Street and plan an event for Halloween.”

 Jones said even though COVID-19 has forced everyone to socially distance, the West Adams Avenues Neighborhood Association has made it its mission not to forget the importance of neighbors and neighborhoods.

Jones said the pandemic has financially affected some residents in the West Adams district.

“If someone is retired or unemployed, we help them get the resources they need,” Jones said. “We have excellent connections with Herb Wesson’s Council District office, the police department, and Mayor Eric Garcetti’s office. I have delivered food to neighbors and had food delivered in the neighborhood. That’s what we’re about. It’s about helping each other, helping your neighbor.”

Jones said it’s “ironic” how the virus is forcing everyone to social distance.

“We’re all supposed to social distance during a time when we need each other the most,” she said. “We’re going to make this work the best way we can. We’re committed.”