Museum Director Musings: Ticket to the Twenties, Day One

by Paul R. Spitzzeri

It’s days like these when I realize what a truly special place the Homestead is.  A major festival like Ticket to the Twenties takes many important contributors.

It starts with my colleagues, who work very hard in the planning and execution of a complex event while working together for a common goal in putting on the best possible program for our visitors.

Among our exhibits is this area in the Dining Room of La Casa Nueva focusing on prohibition.  Other displays covered the growth of greater Los Angeles, music made in the area, the romance of the Latino past, crime and popular culture and more.

This means our five-member public programs staff, who get things going months in advance to plan for and execute all of the components needed for the festival to succeed.  It also involves our collections staff putting together the exhibits in La Casa Nueva and the Workman House for visitors to enjoy and learn from.  And, our administrative staff work to make sure we are logistically in sync.

It takes the essential involvement of dozens of dedicated volunteers, giving of their precious free time to help a festival like this happen.  Our volunteers assist in so many ways, with activities and games, house tours, ushers for performances, providing event information, handing out stickers for attendance keeping, and so on.

Looking across the fish pond to a venue where a band played classic Twenties-era tunes, enthusiasts crowded on the dance floor and an appreciative crowd listened and enjoyed.

It includes a wide variety of performers and presenters, from great musicians performing songs of the Twenties era, dancers to show visitors some of the moves used by people long ago, talented speakers to discuss historical topics like celebrity deaths or the fascination with spiritualism, a top-notch improvising pianist playing along to classic silent comedies from Buster Keaton and Laurel and Hardy, and more.

Moreover, we need visitors, many first-timers who, we hope, will fall in love with the Homestead and come back to our offerings again and again, to experience the best in programming about the history of greater Los Angeles.  Then, there are those dedicated and loyal supporters who regularly come to our events and, in turn, spread the good word to others about what we do.

There was a great selection of classic 1920s cars to admire, too.

All of these elements are vital to a festival like Ticket to the Twenties becoming a success and, now that I’m in a different role and set of responsibilities, my own experience of the event was, in many ways, new.

That’s why I made sure I got around to all of our venues on the six-acre site and captured what I could of the vibrancy, festiveness and fun of this remarkable event.  Even going out to assist our hard-working security staff in finding extra parking spots in an adjacent dirt field and tramping up and down the site was a way for me to get a better understanding of just what it takes to get the job done.

A quartet of food trucks supplied the culinary wants and needs of our visitors.

I’d always known what was involved, but to be directly participating is a whole different perspective.  For many years, I had specific roles, lately the planning and execution of exhibits and the supervising of house tours.  All of that was very enriching and I’ll get a chance to do that tomorrow, as one of my colleagues will not be able to work.

But, there was something very eye-opening about truly roaming the site, helping in different areas, and taking in all that goes on to carry off a big event like Ticket to the Twenties.

Dance demonstrators showed the crowd how it is done on the floor!

My view of the day was that visitors seemed really relaxed, happy and appreciative for what we do and, by extension, what the City of Industry does in funding and operating this great historic site.

Our paid and volunteer staff, busy as they were (and tired at the end of the day as they were), did their work impeccably and went out of their way to make visitors feel welcomed. Performers, presenters and others who were hired for the event gave visitors a memorable set of experiences.

The Homestead’s facilities coordinator, Robert Barron, who recently learned the time intensive art of gilding shows visitors his handiwork on a crypt in the Walter P. Temple Memorial Mausoleum in El Campo Santo.

It was, however, the first of two days.  So, now we go back tomorrow afternoon from 3 to 7 p.m. and do it all again.  There’ll be some different musical acts, a nationally known magician instead of a lecturer, and a fashion show to differentiate tomorrow from today.

Some visitors from today will return tomorrow and there will be many new faces, having new experiences, but, hopefully, feeling the same sense and fun and fulfillment.  If you want to be part of it, join us for day two of Ticket to the Twenties!


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