Village Venture returns with a renewed spirit
by Andrew Alonzo | firstname.lastname@example.org
Less than 24 hours after last year’s Village Venture concluded, staff at the Claremont Chamber of Commerce were already at work thinking about the 2023 event. Executive Director Randy Lopez, Natalia Estrada, office manager, and Xochitl Nieves, event manager, pondered the annual headscratcher — how to make this year’s 41st edition different from previous Ventures.
“Everything we did in the 90s, 2000s … it’s great to know, but how can we mix this up?” Lopez asked. “So many people come here, it’s something they’ve done, some all their lives, it’s a tradition, it’s a touchstone for the community. How do you keep it fresh for new generations? How do you keep the history and kind of the background of it?”
One solution was to change the name of the annual gathering to Village Venture Arts & Crafts Festival, Nieves said. Another was to engage new additions that fit with the times. And, while Village Venture’s community-based, face-to-face interaction model has been running strong for over 40 years, they considered ways to spice it up.
The trio hopes the addition of new food trucks including Cathy’s Cookies, Creamy Boys, Hawaiian Honey Cones, My Delight Cupcakery, and Vchos — as well as nearby businesses such as Claremont Toyota, La Popular Restaurant at the former Rhino Records location, and Stiiizy, a marijuana dispensary chain with a location in Pomona, will spark interest.
“We’re just getting new businesses that are coming in and want to get ingrained in the community,” Lopez said. “Village Venture is a perfect place to participate, to see and be seen.”
This year’s festival is projected to be bigger than last year’s, with nearly 400 unique arts, food, religious, political, and nonprofit vendors occupying Village streets from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Staff accommodated the many new businesses by shifting placement of some returning participants. Lopez explained that new assignment locations will add to the fresh festival atmosphere. Also, with outdoor dining parklets now gone, the chamber capitalized on the additional space and pushed vendors a little closer together.
“The idea is to keep our audience, the people coming, walking around, instead of saying, ‘I know this booth is always here, I’m just going to walk there, then I’ll do my other stop and then leave,’” Lopez said. “We want them to walk and find out where it’s at, as well as experience other booths, other entertainment and more.”
Returning this year is the annual 9:30 a.m. community parade beginning at Shelton Park; festive shopping; and a beer, wine and cider garden at the north end of Harvard Avenue. Live entertainment will be provided by the Franklyn Haynes Marionettes, performers taught by Carly Moultrie, the Claremont Community School of Music, the Inland Pacific Ballet, the Claremont Ukulele Club at the Claremont Depot, and Relic Radio and Blue Hwy at Shelton Park. California Congresswoman Judy Chu and Los Angeles County Supervisor Kathryn Barger will deliver remarks at 205 Yale Avenue at 11 a.m. Vehicle traffic in the Village will be suspended from 5 a.m. to 7 p.m. to accommodate pedestrians.
Village Venture is the chamber’s biggest annual fundraiser and typically grosses over $100,000. Funds are redistributed to keep the Yale Avenue office open, its programs and courses afloat and Village Venture safe and secure. According to chamber staff, the festival brings heavy foot traffic to Village businesses and restaurants.
“We’re fortunate at this chamber because there’s a history of running this event, otherwise without it, we wouldn’t be able to have all these services,” Lopez said. “It is a difficult day for a lot of our businesses logistically, parking and that, but it’s something we do because we know that it also raises the prestige and the feeling of Claremont. It’s really important that we do this.”
Apart from shopping and camaraderie, Lopez added the day is truly about Claremont.
“It’s our open house. We get people that come from all over Southern California for this day; a lot of people that have never been to Claremont. We have buses of people that come from San Diego,” Lopez said, adding that the chamber placed an advertisement at the baggage claim area of the Ontario Airport to let out-of-towners know Village Venture is coming. “People come here and realize this is a charming, beautiful city, boutique town, and then they come back.”
Although the lead-up to Village Venture causes much stress around the small office, a sense of calm falls once festivities get underway. Lopez said Village Venture sometimes feels like “putting on a wedding times 100,” but praised the annual efforts of the volunteers, board members, city staff and police personnel.
“There are moments where it’s so daunting you can’t even believe you’re going to do it, then there are moments where it just seems pretty easy,” Lopez said.
“The day of, I think each and every one of us probably has like a time where we’re like, ‘We really did this,’” Estrada said, adding that people really seem to enjoy the results of all the work that goes into the event. “Whether they know it or not that, ‘This is the chamber and they put it on.’”
For a list of this year’s vendors or for more information, visit claremontchamber.org/village-venture-arts-crafts. Be sure to drop by the Claremont Chamber of Commerce’s booth at 205 Yale Avenue, and we look forward to seeing you at Claremont Courier’s booth at the corner of Yale and Second Street in front of Pizza N’ Such.