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Lively Persian Festival Attracts Families, Friends to Lake Balboa

Iranians gather for traditional Persian New Year of Nowruz.

The mood at the 12th annual Persian New Year festival at Lake Balboa on Sunday was lively with traditional music and food enjoyed by families and friends.

About 12,000 people attended the festival of “joy and solidarity,” celebrated by Iranians. The event is traditionally held outdoors on the 13th day of the Persian New Year of Nowruz.

The day was filled with rituals, including tying blades of grass together and making wishes with each knot, then letting the lump of grass flow down a waterway at Lake Balboa.

Families lounged on blankets casually thrown on the grass or ate on park benches and under umbrellas. Others brought tents with tables and chairs for extra comfort.

“We don’t like to sit at home. We want to come out and celebrate this day and come to the park and bring something to eat—and, yes, also dance,” said 70-year-old Niktoush Amirians of Granada Hills.

Although there was a huge crowd, people weren’t stepping over each other. There was plenty of space and parking.

The festival was cordoned off and regular park-goers had restricted access to the public grounds.

In one corner of the festival area, a hajji firuz, the traditional herald of Nowruz, entertained the crowds with Persian music and gave away $2 bills to children as a present.  

A hookah tent was set up in another area, where people gathered while smoking fruit-flavored tobacco through a water pipe.

Festival-goers lined up at vendor booths soliciting information about skin care products, clothing, trinkets and even legal services.

Many people gathered at the stage where Persian music vibrated from speakers. Some clapped, some sang and others danced to the heart-thumping music.

Scroll through the photo gallery above to learn more about the event.

Annonomous April 04, 2011 at 03:46 PM
I walk every morning at Balboa Park with a group of people. Every year this festival shuts all of us out for the weekend and leaves an icredible mess the following Monday. Last year it was held on Easter Sunday and shut out all the Catholics from enjoying thier special day. I would like to know what financial benifit the park recieves from this event, if any. I would also like to know why this religious event is held on public government and maintained property. It's a violation of our constitution regarding the separation of church and state.
trojan2002 April 04, 2011 at 04:00 PM
You're funny. Nowruz is NOT a religious holiday. It's a Persian holiday. It's the Persian New Year... just like Jan 1st is the Anglo New Year. Using your argument, it's a violation of church and state for "Catholics enjoying thier special day"? What benefits does the govt get for that? Or is it ok for Catholics to use the park but not middle easterners?
Beverly Gould April 04, 2011 at 04:31 PM
Trojan2002 is right. This festival is no different than a party on New Years Eve, July 4th, cinco de mayo, etc. It was a special event for Iranian people and they have every right to enjoy their day. If you have a problem with it, there are a dozen other parks in the Valley that you can walk for that one day a year.
David Holland April 04, 2011 at 04:56 PM
I fully support an event that raises money for the city and allows people to have a good time. They paid the city for an event permit to use the park. And based on these photos, it looks like it was a success. It's a shame that those who are blinded by ignorance and prejudice would try to deny that celebration from thousands of people.
Annonomous April 04, 2011 at 07:17 PM
This is America, it is a melting pot. I am part of a mixed race family. This isn't the issue. All races have their prejudices, including Persian people. They can enjoy their day, they don't have to make it difficult for other people to enjoy theirs too. In response to "Trojan," the BIG diference is that the Catholics don't close the park and charge a fee to enter. To "David Holland," I have been told that the city, or the park, does not get ANY financial benefit except for a permit fee from this event, while a lot of money is made for the person throwing this festival. This park always seems to have needs that there never seems to be the money for. It would be nice if at least our community did get something out of it.
David Holland April 04, 2011 at 08:06 PM
I’m looking at the copy of the event permit. The city got $2,700 for the permit. There was also a refundable $1,500 to ensure proper clean up, $704 for security to monitor the event, $6,800 in vendor booth fees, and $320 for the use of water. I agree that it would be nice if our community could get those funds, but our government doesn't work that way. The fees will just go back to the city to be apportioned as they see fit. The point is, your initial rant about a violation of church and state has no bearing. The festival may have made it difficult for you and a handful of others to enjoy the day at the park, but it made it very easy for thousands of Iranians to enjoy their holiday. Plus, the city made some money, which it desperately needs right now. Seems like a positive outcome to me.
socruls15 April 04, 2011 at 11:34 PM
If this were any other holiday, or a more "acceptable" christian holiday, Anonymous likely wouldn't have made any comment regarding it's validity or the use of the park at all. It's sad that other religions/cultures/people are still not as accepted as they should be. It's what our country was based on. Get used to it.
Kathy Patterson April 05, 2011 at 03:29 AM
I was born and raised in Iran. I am also the Representative At-Large at Encino Neighborhood Council. I personally disagreed with this event because as many of you said, this event restricts and limits the access of public to the whole park. As a Persian, I do not appreciate the admission fees either. This event is a family event and $15 per person for a family of 4 or 5 in average is a lot of money, especially in this economy. This is a cultural event that I am proud of, but it should not conflict with the public's right and what it really means. If we want to introduce the Iranian culture to the public and non-Iranians, certainly, this is not the way to do it. By charging a fee as big as $15 per person plus parking and the expensive food, no non-Iranian would want to come and see this event. Also, I witnessed this event last year when it coincided with Easter. I saw little kids (Mexican, Chinese, Korean) running across Balboa with BBQ and food to get to the park. This was because people could not park their cars in the park and there was a charge of $5 for parking. The bigger question is where the money for the permit going? Does it go back to the Balboa Lake and recreations or get commingled with the rest of the City funds? To me, this event is not beneficial to any nationality or community. It only benefits the entity which gets richer every year by hosting this event. By the way, the event this year was not as big and crowded as the prior events.
Annonomous April 05, 2011 at 02:01 PM
Thank you, Kathy.
Truth April 05, 2011 at 03:56 PM
I agree with Anonymous and Kathy. They have no businesses charging people merely to get in, and causing the aforementioned problems with parking. I have two friends, one Iranian and one hispanic, who wanted to check it out. The two of them got a lot of stares from people and were made to feel unwelcome. The admission fee, plus peoples' attitudes, made them leave. Several of the Iranians at the festival smirked and mocked my hispanic friend. Since my other friend speaks Farsi, he understood what they were saying. They do INTENTIONALLY discourage non-Iranians from coming in. This is not ok. I love Persian food and have a few very dear Iranian friends, and not one of them thinks highly of this particular event. It needs to be made free of charge and EVERYONE MUST BE OPENLY WELCOME. Otherwise it needs to be shut down. Period.
trojan2002 April 05, 2011 at 04:12 PM
Kathy, You're NC is a pain in the ass and no one outside of the blow hard who find it important give a smack about it. Please go away.
trojan2002 April 05, 2011 at 04:19 PM
Crystal, they have every business to charge people. That's why they have permit. I would encourage you to put some big tent event together and have kumbaya moment. It's unfortunate you're friend felt mocked. But being as though this an online MB account, I have hesitations on accepting your story. I have found persians to be very extremely welcoming during their new year. Sure there are bad lots in every ethnic group, but during this time of year persians are always warm and inviting. I personally am growing tired of this BS political correctness agenda. People should be allowed to hold events, charge fees, and be as open as they want, without some PC secret police looking over. If you don't like it... don't go. if you're friends are offended, they don't have to go. if your persian friends don't like it, guess what? they don't have to go. And it's one day a year. You can go somewhere else while these people pay the city. And Kathy is upset because her NC fiefdom doesn't control the money.
Kathy Patterson April 05, 2011 at 04:44 PM
@Trojan, first and foremost, be polite and respectful of others' opinions. Second, your accusation re the NC is completely incorrect and meritless. I want the money from the permit to go back to the park and recreations specifically, not to any NC. You have no reason to attack people here and be uncivilized about it. I work voluntarily for our NC as other people on our board. We have no intention but to help our community. This is more than I can say for you, who are being absolutely disrepectful and insulting.
Truth April 05, 2011 at 05:27 PM
Trojan, why don't you get an education and learn to spell? Your English is very poor, which makes it very difficult to understand anything you say. If you actually think IRANIANS (there is no Persia) are welcoming and not racist, then you have NO knowledge of them whatsoever. Try going to neighborhoods where there is a high populations of Iranians, and see how they treat those of other races. They think nothing of threatening to kill non-Iranians, trying to start fights, talking about how Israel should be wiped off the face of the earth, that American DESERVED 9-11, even talking about how great it would be to see Obama killed. At a local college, professors have reported seeing this and more. Then there is the Iranian who used to work on campus who got paid $400 to take classes for other students. he also carried a knife and threatened to kill another student. He said he could kill anyone he wanted. For every great Iranian, there are dozens of bad ones. It is not the race, it is their culture. And you think these people are welcoming?!?!?! Like I said, you obviously have NO knowledge of these people. Liar.
Kathy Patterson April 05, 2011 at 08:00 PM
To be fair to all races and cultures, there is good and bad in all of them. Some of Iranians are Jews and love Israel. I do not agree with the ratio of bad versus good in Iranians. Many of Iranians are doctors, lawyers, and professors and continue to serve this country and its people, like many other races and culture. However, it is interesting to witness how an event drove a wedge in the community.
Friend of LB April 05, 2011 at 09:30 PM
I've been using this park and walking around the lake for many years. This park is a public park... to be enjoyed daily by EVERYONE. No one should pay. No one should be prevented from bringing themselves or their families to picnic or do whatever on a beautiful spring day. Lake Balboa is special to more than a "handful". It is part of the daily lives of hundreds and possibly thousands on a weekend. I am not saying a certain group can't hold a special event there on a certain day. I am saying it should be shared. The park is large and anyone and everyone should be able to come and go and get along and and be thankful we have it to enjoy. By charging a fee and not letting hundreds attend it causes friction that can be prevented. Open the park to all and let EVERYONE come in!! There could be a whole section roped off .... if needed, but don't close the entire park of to those who have celebrations of their own. There are birthdays, family reunions, weddings and many others that are often held at Lake Balboa. All of those people were shut out!! The price of admission was beyond expensive and in this time of so many that can barely make ends meet it is sad that this beautiful park that I personally call the "Jewel of the valley".... had to turn those away that would have normally gone there to find a little happiness and joy just by being there. It may just be one day, but that one day should still be able to be enjoyed by all.
trojan2002 April 06, 2011 at 01:58 PM
Crystal= Racist... that much is now crystal clear. I live in an area with a lot of Persians, I work in an office building filled with Persians, I actually have friends who are Persians(not fantasy friends that you do), and I can tell that you are drawing from a stereotype you have gotten from your other bed sheet wearers. MOST Persians in LA don't like the regime in Iran, are very much PRO- America & Western Cultures, AND voted for Obama because of his world views. Most also tend to vote with Democrats because they abhor strict conservative values orated from the Right. Those are personal issues and should not be a government concern. But go back to wearing your bed sheet and talking out of your ass.
trojan2002 April 06, 2011 at 02:02 PM
Kathy- the fact you feel insulted that I criticize ENC is a reason why I hold your organization in such very low esteem. If you are there for the public good that you claim you wouldn't be offended you would understand that is the view most people have the ENC and the ENC, like a bunch of Roman Senators, has never taken on an effort to improve that image.
Kathy Patterson April 06, 2011 at 03:03 PM
Trojan2002, I gather from your vague statements and accusations, you have no idea what Encino Neighborhood Council or any neighborhood council is all about. You accused the ENC and me for wanting the funds from this event to be diverted to us. Every Neighborhood Council has a budget provided and determined by the City and the Council CANNOT accept money from any entity and/or organization. This showed your lack of knowledge about how a neighborhood council works and gets funded. Second is that you are unaware of what a neighborhood council does. Instead of throwing meaningless words, educate yourself that the neighborhood councils are the advisory bodies to the City Council. Without these neighborhood councils, the City would not know how the community feels about the City's plans and projects. We are not looking for an image, we are here to help the community to be heard. There is a long list of what Encino Neighborhood Council has accomplished. I am proud to be a part of this organization as this is a way that I am helping my community. What are you doing for your community?
trojan2002 April 06, 2011 at 05:10 PM
I am well aware of what NCs do, the functions of the city charter, and what it is the ENC does. The ENC is pact with individuals who have THEIR own image of what NCs should be doing, which would be ok if you we're a real body of elected officials. But you are not elected officials and do not always do what's best for the community of Encino. You are most of the time and impediment to change, to the 21st century, and are overall a nuisance to anyone who has a real job to do. And what's even more pathetic than what you may think of me, is that the only excuse ENC board members use when speaking to someone critical of them is: You don't know what NCs do. The City of LA would be better off without funding a bunch self absorbed, self important, wanna-be royalty.
Kathy Patterson April 06, 2011 at 08:22 PM
LOL! Trojan, as much as you talk, it shows you are clueless. The board of neighborhood council gets elected every two years. Each and every board member, including I, was elected for a two year term. The election process is done by the City of Los Angeles and the stakeholders are the only people who can vote. I can see where you are coming from. The ENC did not approve of this event before and you are most likely an affiliated person to this event or a benefited person from this event. As you see, the community spoke here and they do not want this event to limit or restrict their right to the park. Every Iranian, except those who profit from this event, believes in the same. Just accept it!
trojan2002 April 07, 2011 at 04:14 AM
Kathy, I know you got elected to your job. You got 40 of your friends, if that, to show up and vote for you on a random Tuesday in a random location. And of course you all tried really "hard" to get the vote out too. I never said you weren't elected. But YOU ARE NOT PUBLIC OFFICIALS! Again, re-read my comment, especially the previous one: "And what's even more pathetic than what you may think of me, is that the only excuse ENC board members use when speaking to someone critical of them is: You don't know what NCs do." I guess I've should have added and you all say oh yeah, you disagree with me, you don't even know what NC is! And the ENC did not approve this event? OK. I don't care. You all get yourselves, and want yourselves, involved in everyday life in Encino. Encino is NOT your fiefdom. And sorry to burst your bubble, but I am not only not associated with the event, I didn't even go. I believe in a freedom to choose, to gather, to do whatever the fuck you want without a NC, city hall, govt know nothings, special interests, telling me or anyone else what they can do. IF one day is too much for you, if you don't like the fact that this event charged $15 leave the USA go back to Iran and you'll have the kind of govt involved you ache for. But I already know what your NC will do, it's not hard to read the mind of Gerry Silver and his Gestape acolytes. You will cry and jump up and down to shut this event down... Too bad CD5 also covers Westwood. Koretz won't weigh in.
Kathy Patterson April 07, 2011 at 02:24 PM
Trojan, it appears that you are back pedaling now. You said that we are not elected. Now you are saying that you knew that we were elected. You are pathetically trying to cover up your lack of knowledge. I gained my votes from campaigning. Majority of my friends are not even stakeholders in Encino. Majority of people who voted to me were Persians who wanted to have a voice in the community and now they do. You are no one to order me or someone else to go back to their country. It appears that you should go home and put a sheet on your head as you suggested to some people here. I would rather to have a healthy discussion with a person who is reciprocally respectful. I have to end this discussion as your language is fowl. F words are not acceptable and just show your lack of competence in carrying a healthy discussion.
trojan2002 April 07, 2011 at 06:33 PM
You're an elected official just as much as the class president at a HS is... all show, not tangible power, no important people actually voted for you, yet you use the power given to you by the charter as a tool to oppress and harass people. My telling you to go back to your country is a figure of speech and that's how it was presented. If you can't figure it out, then maybe you should go back to school. I'm sorry but you don't get any respect from me. The ENC should not be afforded any respect UNTIL you have show an ability to be respectful to those in the community. You are the Roman Senate. You are a let them eat cake group. It almost always feels like you were a bunch of kids picked on in school and now feel you can take it out on everyone. F words are acceptable... until you and are gestapo outlaw them. (I'm sure you're already working on that as well as other ways to force yourself into people's lives). If you can't handle the criticism get out of the "public life" (" because I want to play along with your false impression of being a public official). I actually feel sorry for you. The NC is so important in your life and you think being bossy and an impediment is what is important in your life. And I am criticizing it and you are hurt by it.

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