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The Amazing Car-Free Party at Wilshire Center

5:13 PM PDT on April 22, 2008

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Back when I first started writing Street Heat, I vowed to not just write Car Culture story after Car Culture Story because the focus on Angelnos' love affair with their cars is "beyond cliche." Today, Car Culture got a kick in the shin as the Wilshire Center Cool District celebrated Earth Day by shutting down several blocks of Wilshire Boulevard around Wilshire Center to car traffic and providing a case study of what a car free street means to Los Angeles.

Wilshire Boulevard was swarming with hundreds of people walking, biking, and even skateboarding. Instead of bumper to bumper traffic, with people fuming in their cars and choking on their fumes, the street was being completely utilized, with a variety of arts and crafts, food, vendor booths, performances and non-profit booths. People were laughing and smiling, not cursing and glowering, as they enjoyed a beautiful day in the Los Angeles sun.

Today marked the first time this section of Wilshire Boulevard had been closed during a work day, and many participants wouldn't mind seeing it happen more often. The Eco-Village's Lois Arkin predicted that we'll see more and more street festivals on Wilshire as the years progress and that "ten years from now this section will be permanently closed to traffic." From your lips to Villaraigosa's ears, Lois.

If you couldn't make the event, or just want to re-live the moment, there's a full photo gallery after the jump.

When you look at the pictures of booths and crowd shots notice how many people are in the booths. Just about every booth was full of people even though the streets were also teaming with people.

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There was no trouble with keeping people safe. The Business District's security were out in their blues, but all officers were either on bikes or on foot and were more than able to "police" the entire festival.

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As soon as I entered the festival area I immediately noticed that there were people as far as the eye could see taking full advantage of their street and celebrating the absence of automobiles.

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There was plenty to do at Car Free Day from "Paint Your Own Mural" (the paint was milk based), to holding a class outdoors to just taking in a musical performance.

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There were plenty of non-profits out in force today preaching the Green Gospel and celebrating Earth Day. The groups ranged from those above to the Sierra Club, High Speed Rail Coalition, and the Eco-Village.

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There weren't a lot of food stands, but the one's present were all green on one way or another. Not only does this stand serve the best organic tea this side of my kitchen, but every purchase includes a donation for open space preservation.

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The big primary may be taking place across the country, but can we sell unlicensed Barack Obama merchandise at a non-political event? Yes, we can.

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From the "you can't please all of the people" file... After nearly running me over while I crossed the intersection to the festival, this pizza delivery man demanded to talk to whoever "was responsible for this terrible idea." Security and the police suggested he take his anger elsewhere.

All Photos by Damien Newton

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