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A Feast of Ethnic Festivals : * Diversity is on the menu at L.A. street fairs celebrating food and arts from France, Hawaii, Africa and beyond.


Summer is the time for festivals in Los Angeles, when the city does its best to celebrate its diversity. A variety of outdoor events held during July and August expose adults and children to unfamiliar cultures and traditions.

What follows is a partial list of festivals, most of which are free. For a complete festival reference calendar, call the Los Angeles Cultural Affairs Department at (213) 485-2433.

The Lotus Festival on July 10 and 11 offers a sampling of Asian and Pacific Islander customs and traditions. The festival is held at Echo Park Lake, site of hundreds of lotus blossoms.

Ethnic dances, music, martial arts and drama will be performed by various groups. Artisan and food booths are included, as well as a juried art exhibit with a lotus blossom theme. Other activities include origami, weaving, calligraphy demonstrations, a dragon boat race and fireworks.

Hours are noon to 9 p.m., Saturday, July 10, and noon to 8 p.m., Sunday, July 11. Information: (213) 485-1310.

The Ho'Olaule'a Hawaiian Festival on July 17 and 18 at Alondra Park in Lawndale will feature hula dancers, food and boutique booths, and games for kids.

Food from the Hawaiian Islands includes Kalua pig and lau lau (pork and fish wrapped in steamed tea leaves). Boutique booths sell Hawaiian plants, jewelry and other gift items. Experts will teach participants how to make leis Saturday in preparation for a lei-making contest Sunday morning.

Opening ceremonies are at 11 a.m. both days (listen for the sound of the conch shell) and include an appearance by the festival's king and queen. Admission is free. Hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. both days. Alondra Park, 3850 West Manhattan Beach Blvd., Lawndale. Information: (310) 329-9794.

The Santa Barbara French Festival is July 17 and 18, the weekend after Bastille Day, in Oak Park. The event features French food, live music, dancing and a poodle parade at 5 p.m. Winners receive a trip to Paris.

A large replica of the Eiffel Tower is erected at the site, where artistes are on hand to paint portraits. Admission is free. Hours are from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. both days. From the 101 Freeway north, exit at Pueblo Street in Santa Barbara and follow the signs. Information: (805) 564-2525.

The Garlic Festival on July 17 and 18 in Westwood celebrates the wonders of garlic by presenting 30 Los Angeles restaurants offering samples of their cuisine. Live entertainment features jazz, R & B, country, pop and reggae groups. Games, souvenirs and speakers are also featured.

All food items--even the ice cream and other desserts--are prepared with garlic. Everyone receives a complimentary box of Clorets, the official breath freshener of the Garlic Festival.

Hours are noon to 11 p.m. July 17, and noon to 10 p.m. July 18, at the Federal Building grounds at the corner of Wilshire Boulevard and Veteran Avenue in Westwood. Admission is $8 for adults, $5 for seniors and free for children under 12. Food samples are $1 to $5. Information: (213) 939-9023.

The Starscene Festival, held Aug. 20 to 22 at North Hollywood Park, Magnolia Boulevard at Tujunga Avenue, features carnival rides, games, food, children's entertainment and a magic tent for kids. Admission is free. Held 5 p.m. to midnight Aug. 20, and 11 a.m. to midnight Aug. 21 and 22. Admission is free. Information: (818) 508-5155.

The Shakespeare Festival will stage "Romeo and Juliet" at the John Anson Ford Amphitheater, 2580 Cahuenga Blvd., Hollywood, Wednesdays through Sundays, July 10 to 25. Previews are July 7 to 9. Curtain is at 8:30 p.m. all nights. Admission is a canned-food donation for the homeless. Call Ticketmaster for free tickets. Information: (213) 480-3232.

Other Shakespeare plays, to be announced, will be performed at the South Coast Botanic Gardens, 26300 South Crenshaw Blvd., in Palos Verdes, Wednesdays through Sundays, July 29 through Aug. 8, at 8 p.m. Tickets are $10. Information: (213) 623-9224.

Also at Citicorp Plaza, 725 Figueroa St., downtown Los Angeles, Wednesdays through Sundays, Aug. 12 to 22, 8 p.m. Tickets are free. Information: (213) 623-9224.

Nisei Week Festival was first celebrated in the 1930s by the Nisei, or second-generation Japanese-Americans. The event, Aug. 7 to 15, begins with the Coronation Ball, at 6:30 p.m. Aug. 7 at the Bonaventure Hotel, downtown Los Angeles. Phone for ticket costs. The Grand Parade, featuring floats, Japanese ondo dancers, taiko drummers, bands, actors and celebrities, starts at 4 p.m. Aug. 8, at the intersection of 2nd Street and Central Avenue in Little Tokyo.

Cultural exhibits, including flower arranging, tea ceremonies and bonsai, are on view in various venues.

Most events are free. For a calendar of events, call (213) 687-7193.

The African Marketplace & Cultural Faire, held in late August at Rancho Cienega Park in Los Angeles, has 350 vendors, artisans and crafts people that sell and display African wares.

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