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Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Fiesta Broadway – Downtown Los Angeles - Cinco de Mayo

Two days before Sunday’s Los Angeles Lakers game at Staples Center, the Lakers sent out a communication to all those who purchased tickets through Ticketmaster. The bulletin basically told everyone with tickets for Saturday’s Avengers game or Sunday’s Lakers game to expect traffic delays due to “Fiesta Broadway” and the closure of many block in the downtown area of LA.

My first thought – what is Fiesta Broadway? It sounded like a Cinco de Mayo kind of thing, but it was only going to be April 28th and April 29th. So, after a quick Google – I determined it was a downtown party for Cinco de Mayo that traditionally is held the Sunday before Cinco de Mayo. And, in general approximately 500,000 – yes, that’s a half million – crowd into several blocks on Broadway Street in the downtown area.

Other than worried about getting to the game in time, Ashley and I decided to get to the Staples Center for the Lakers game plenty early to check out the Fiesta Broadway party. So, on the morning of April 29th, we headed down the 101 freeway to towards downtown at 9:00am, figuring it would give us a couple of hours of time to explore the Cinco de Mayo celebration at Fiesta Broadway.

We arrived at our usual parking spot for Lakers game right around 10:00am. We always park on Flower Street, right next to the “Liberty Grill” a block away from Staples Center. Although not cheap at $20, it is really easy to get into and the most important part is that after the game the direct access to Flower Street before the main Staples Center traffic is priceless in terms of getting to the freeway quickly.

Not knowing downtown well, Flower Street is about 6 blocks away from Broadway – so, after asking we started the walk East towards Fiesta Broadway. After about a 15 minute walk we showed up at the far south end of the Fiesta Broadway festival. Given that it was already past 10:00am, we were expecting a much larger crowd. However, the streets were lined with vendors and displays.

As we started walking down the street, we had some interesting observations. One, everything was written in Spanish – somewhat expected, as Cinco de Mayo is a Mexican holiday. Two, many of the folks walking down the street handing out samples of things like “Tums Smoothies” and “Nivea for Men” did not approach us, while approaching others on the street. Not really a big deal, I guess we probably were not the target market they were looking for.

As we kept walking, it seemed that each block had one main sponsor – Chrystler / Jeep, Tums, Aquafresh, Coca-Cola, Nivea for Men, AT&T / Cinguler – and then a number of other food and smaller vendors mixed in. Also, the main entertainment area and food booths were not open yet – it appeared that things really took off after 11:00am, when we really needed to be at the Lakers game.

Overall, we were not too impressed with Fiesta Broadway, but it probably had more to do with timing than anything. Had the entertainment and foods courts been open before 11:00am – it would have made for a much more enjoyable experience. Should we look to go back next year, we would not show up until sometime after noon.