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Fiesta Has Rich Hermosa History

Carol Tanner and Joanne Purpus started what used to be called the "Festival by the Sand and Sea" in 1973.

As bright, colorful artwork fills Pier Plaza, and portions of Hermosa Avenue and Pier Avenue, thousands of people will celebrate the 37th consecutive year of Fiesta Hermosa on Labor Day.

Patch dug into the archives to find the origins of this popular South Bay extravaganza, which Carol Tanner and Joanne Purpus pioneered in 1973.

"We started the festival for the city, and it was a very small organization," Tanner said about the local arts fair.

After being asked by the city, the women obtained the necessary permits to close down what is now Pier Plaza, but at the time, still an operating portion of Pier Avenue.

Then, thanks to table and chair donations from the Hermosa Beach Parks and Recreation Commission, along with donuts and coffee provided by local businesses, Tanner and Purpus held the first-ever "Festival by the Sand and Sea." 

The duo invited artists to showcase their work at the festival at no cost, which attracted painters, weavers, potters, photographers, and even a silk screener. They awarded the roughly 30 participating artists with festival ribbons decorated with shells from the nearby beach.

The festival was a wild success. Tanner and Purpus continued to run the event for several years, until the Chamber of Commerce took over the operation in the late 1970s as a way to generate funds for the organization.

"The event didn't actually make much money until the Chamber of Commerce took over, and it grew," according to Tanner.

Around that same time, the local fair, which happens biannually on Memorial Day and Labor Day, went through a series of name changes.

"The original name was something about the arts, I can't remember it exactly, but it was really long and ridiculous," Tanner said. "It didn't actually stick for very long."

The original name for the event, being Festival by the Sand and Sea, changed after the first year to Fiesta de las Artes. The event name was changed to Fiesta Hermosa in 2002.

The city considered moving the Fiesta to Valley Drive, between 8th and 18th streets, in 1998. But City Council voted against the idea, keeping the event downtown.

Fiesta Hermosa will run daily from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday and Monday. 

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