The Hometown Fair: 50 Years Strong


Art/Photo by Ms. Burt

Hana Kim (11) explains how FBLA’s game works to a dad and his son. A third boy stands by, patiently waiting for his turn. This was the least busy the booth was for the entire day — a queue of five or more wasn’t uncommon. In the background, older kids could be seen scattered about, playing one of the fair’s many games.

In 1972, the South Bay was starting to take shape. Carson turned 4, Lomita turned 8, and Rancho Palos Verdes was trying to decide whether it wanted to become a city. Torrance had just built the Del Amo mall, Redondo completed the Seaside Lagoon, and Manhattan Beach held its first annual “Hometown Fair” — a non-profit festival to honor the city and its residents.

   Some 50 years later, the fair is still celebrated on the first Saturday and Sunday of every October — a South Bay tradition that is every bit as iconic as any mall or lagoon. Bouncy kids drag resigned parents by hand from the beer garden to the games area and teenagers loiter in cliques of four or five around food stalls. The shopping-inclined stroll past vendors, who sell handmade clothes and wooden trinkets; a few older gentlemen parade perfectly-maintained vintage cars to a crowd of enthusiastic onlookers. The smell of barbeque permeates the whole fair and a live band plays 80s throwbacks — the scene is a joyous and lively one. 

   Hana Kim (11) was one of the thousands in attendance at the fair. On behalf of West High’s Key Club, she and a few other volunteers helped fundraise $510 at their “Nerf gun booth,” on Saturday, October 1. She stood by as players shot cardboard carrots off of a table in an attempt to win prizes at the cost of $3 for 5 bullets. According to Ms. Wang, the club’s advisor, Key Club has been fundraising at the fair for “as long as it has been at West High.” It’s always been a fun (and lucrative) way to raise money for the Pediatric Trauma Program— one kid had even spent $50 to win a BTS poster that cost the club $5. 

   One booth over, West High’s Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA) raised $2252 over both fair days. Eager players were charged $5 for a chance to “fish” — using a toy rod with a magnet on a string — for a guaranteed prize. Sritha Sthothrabhashyam (12), one of the FBLA members who picked up a shift, admitted the game wasn’t “too challenging” — but cited its simplicity as being a major selling point for younger players. 

   Between their shifts, the two did their own fair going — Kim bought a smoothie and Sthothrabhashyam picked up a beautiful pair of earrings. Beyond their purchases, though, they were experiencing the fair as the founders had intended half a century ago — coming together with friends and family for a good cause.