It’s Friday night in Westwood Village, and hundreds of people are lined up outside of the Regency Village Theater.
“Amanda Seyfried everybody!”
The crowd screams as the starlet appears, making her way down the red carpet past flashing cameras and giddy fans to the premier of her new film, In Time. Justin Timberlake, her costar, arrives shortly after.
About 100 feet away on Broxton Avenue, an entirely different event is kicking off with less glitz but a lot more variety. Westwood Live, a party celebrating the culture and community of Westwood, fills the streets with live music and performances, art, and tastes from local restaurants. The brainchild of UCLA alumni Peter Trinh, Tri Arc CEO Mia Chang, and W Hotel general manager Ren Hirose, the festival occurs the third Thursday of every month.
Tyler Allen, marketing coordinator for I Left Word Entertainment, helped put on the event. “We want to drive commerce and culture and take advantage of everything Westwood has to offer,” he said. The goal was to get the community (and those formally dressed VIPs waltzing out of the premier) to check out the festivities and keep the program running for at least a year.
This was the first Westwood Live to offer a $10 “passport” ($5 for students) that visitors could use to earn free food or discounts, such as a complimentary spirits tasting at The Glendon Bar and Kitchen, 20% off at Barney’s Beanery, or free samples of an ice cream sandwich at Waffle Chix by checking in at booths set up by local businesses. Nine hundred passports were sold. They also included face painting, a free pumpkin at the carving station, and a do-it-yourself candy apple station complete with caramel, sprinkles, and oreo crumbs.
Napa Valley Grille and the Glendon also handed out free nibbles of lamb Baracoa tacos with guacamole and curry Waldorf sandwiches to passersby. “It’s just participating in your community,” said Joseph Gillard, Napa Valley Grille’s executive chef, about the restaurant’s participation in the event. “This is one of the few places in L.A. that has a neighborhood vibe, so I really believe in it.”
Meanwhile, the main stage showcased local talent, from a student belting out a folk version of Lady Gaga’s “Just Dance” to the Story Pirates. A gleeful crowd of students, families, and couples gathered to laugh at their antics.
Further down the street, six artists from Blue Canvas held a live exhibit, transforming plain canvas to a vibrant image within hours. Spraypaint and paintbrushes illuminated a woman peering over an edgy city and an African woman merging as one with the heads of golden lions.
“I’m amazed,” said Fred Hamilton, CEO of a real estate company. “I walked down this street this afternoon and it was a farmers market. Now it’s a party.”
As the evening came to a close, students krumped in front of the DJ booth and danced in the street with friends. For passport holders who wanted to continue the celebration, the after party at the W’s Whiskey Blue began at 10 p.m., with 20 percent off cocktails, of course.
You can purchase a passport to the next Westwood Live starting a week before the November event here.