Before the Fourth Big Parade winds its way through Echo Park and Silver Lake this weekend, ambitious walkers can today participate in a pedestrian tour of the Arroyo.
Organized by New York-transplant Dan Koeppel, the ever-evolving walking tour of Los Angeles history and stairways includes a "prologue walk" that will lead walkers from South Pasadena to Montecito Heights.
The walk, which begins at 9:30 a.m. at Buster's Coffee in South Pas, will follow the Gold Line from the Mission Station to Highland Park, making stops at craftsman homes in Garvanza and climbing secret stairways in Mount Angelus along the way.
The group will pause for lunch at La Tierra De Culebra Park on Avenue 57, before making its way toward the Audubon Center at Debs Park in Montecito Heights.
According to Big Parade organizers Robert Inman and Dan Koeppel said the tour is mostly flat, but participants are encouraged to wear a good park of walking shoes and to bring water and money for public transportation.
The big parade begins in earnest with Saturday afternoon exploration of "Red Hill" overlapping the Echo Park Art Walk.
There will also be a Saturday celebration (and possible screening) at Silver Lake's Music Box Steps.
Sunday, the Parade takes in some of Griffth Park and the Franklin Hills.
We had a couple of burning questions for Silver Lake-resident and organizer Koeppel.
Here are are his very thoughtful answers.
Patch: This is the 4th Big Parade. How has it changed since the first?
Dan Koeppel: The general theme is pretty consistent: a walk anybody can do, broken into segments, with guest speakers and community involvement. The route has changed. Though the start and end points are the same, we now include an L.A. River segment, along with some other new pieces.
The first two years, we had a campout at the end point/Day One start point/Day Two. I didn't do that last year because it didn't attract a big enough crowd, and the experience wasn't all that pleasant. The idea of camping was to symbolically knit the two days together.
Last year and this year, we accomplish that with movie night. The other big change is simplification of joint points. The first two years, we used mostly Twitter and a minute-by-minute schedule so that people could meet us at any point on the route. Starting last year, I broke the walk down into well-defined loops so that people could easily choose where to meet us. You can still follow us on Twitter and join at will, though. I've gotten much better at estimating timing, too, so we're no longer hours late--as we were on Day II, first year--to our meeting points.
Patch: You consistently touch down at the Music Box steps. Out of the many stairways we celebrate in Los Angeles, why is this seemingly the epicenter of the Big Parade?
Koeppel: Because it is romantic and historic and fun and familiar to people; even those who don't know the movie have that iconic image of Laurel and Hardy and their piano in their subconscious. Plus, the "stair zones" of LA are in the hilly, older neighborhoods, which means between downtown and the Hollywood Hills. That puts the Music Box stairs at the geographic center. Finally, I used to live around the corner from there, so it was the first stairway I was aware of and so became the centerpiece of my personal routes.
Patch: This Big Parade will overlay another pedestrian event Saturday--the Echo Park Art Walk. What have you planned around that and how will it be complementary?
Koeppel: We're working together; the Art Walk is promoting the Big Parade for people who want to put some oomph into their promenade, and I've designed the Big Parade Echo Park route so that people can drop in and out of the stairway pieces and explore the art pieces. So I'm really glad that the Venn diagrams of our events intersect. I've pasted the relevant info on our Echo Park/Art Walk segment:
2:00 PM - MAIN LOOP OF THE DAY, Echo Park. Lots of options. This year, our primary segment coincides with the Echo Park Art Walk, so Paraders can mingle with art walkers, and vice-versa. If you want to see art and climb stairs, join us for a five mile loop that includes 20 public stairways - including the longest in LA - along with visits to the neighborhood's historic art landmarks, including the former cabin residences of pioneering Echo Park artists Paul Landacre and Edward Middleton Manigault, who literally died to preserve the purity of his work. As with all segments of the Big Parade, you'll be able to come and go as you please, so there are options with fewer stairways and as short as one mile. To join: meet the Big Parade group across the street from Elysian Heights Elementary School (NW corner of Baxter/Echo Park Avenue.).
4:30 PM - Art/Music/Food Break (time approximate.) The group takes a half-hour break along Echo Park Avenue to mingle with the art walkers. The break point is Echo Park/Avalon. We reassemble a few blocks south - in front of Echo Park Fuels (aka Magic Gas) at 5PM to continue the Big Parade.
Patch: You're originally from New York and the Northeast. Has that somehow given you a unique perspective on stairways and the way they connect us to movement, transportation and health? (I know I gained six pounds almost immediately when I moved back to my native L.A. from NYC. I was no longer climbing historic subway staircases!)
Koeppel: I suppose my being a native of New York (Brooklyn and Queens) made walking/biking/transit feel like the way people get around in cities, as opposed to cars. I've been using all three modes as long as I can remember, and didn't get a driver's license till I was 20.
That said, I moved to L.A. in 1993 because of the unparalleled opportunities for self-powered recreation and transportation. (I came here because I was offered a job editing a bike magazine.) And I've loved the city--as a walker and bike rider--since then. I like the fact that L.A. is a huge, sprawling challenge, and I see navigation as a game. What I want the Big Parade to be is the ultimate expression of that game (and a public one.)