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New Year's Revelers Left Without a Cause

Downtown L.A. music festival is canceled over worries about the rain, forcing disappointed fans to figure out how to salvage their evening.

January 01, 2006|Daniel Hernandez and Stuart Pfeifer | Times Staff Writers

Organizers abruptly canceled a New Year's Eve music festival that was expected to draw more than 15,000 revelers to downtown Los Angeles on Saturday, forcing disappointed fans to find a new way to ring in 2006.

The Giant Village event, scheduled for its sixth year, was to include 15 performers, including headliners the Black Eyed Peas, playing on stages spread along six downtown blocks.

The event's website promoted the event as the "world's largest [over] 21 New Year's Eve celebration."

Event organizer Dave Dean said he canceled the event about 4 p.m., after consulting city fire officials, because of concerns about a rainstorm that drenched most of Southern California on Saturday.

"It was just pouring rain and it looked like it was going to continue," Dean said.

The fire marshal "felt not only would it cause a potential safety hazard to the patrons, but, as well, the artists," he said.

"Something terrible could have happened. I'm just devastated."

Many fans paid for their tickets in advance, but the majority were planning to buy tickets at the event, Dean said.

As the evening wore on, fans continued to show up, but were turned away by security guards.

Disappointed people wandered aimlessly along Hope Street wondering what to do. The rain had subsided.

"Just going to go home and get drunk, I guess," said Tiffany Sanchez, 22, of Azusa. "It's an omen, maybe. I might go home to the family."

Zoon Lou, 28, a San Diego teacher who had traveled to Los Angeles for the concert, said, "It's 15,000 people figuring out what to do next."

"We don't care if it's raining," he said. "We just want to be there."

Thorunn Magnusdottir, a backup singer with the band Junior Senior, said she flew from London to play at Giant Village.

"I came all the way out here to play a gig, but, you know, you can't be down about these things," Magnusdottir said. "I'm not going to spend the last night of the year being disappointed, no way."

The Los Angeles Fire Department issued a news release late Saturday to report that it did not cancel the event and that the decision was made by event organizers.

Fire Department spokesman Brian Humphrey said the department received numerous complaints from fans.

"Some guy said, 'I'm out 150 bucks and you guys are going to pay.' I had to wince and calm him," Humphrey said.

A stage had been erected at Hope and 7th streets, where two security guards turned people away, a few wearing party hats for the New Year's Eve celebration.

Adam Day, 26, of Burbank, who works for a DVD company, held out a $150 VIP ticket with the words "rain or shine" printed on it.

"It's not going to shine at night, so the only option is for it to rain and it's not raining," he said.

"We didn't hear anything ahead of time; we just literally showed up. This is ridiculous, the most insane thing. We planned for this for three months."

Throughout the early hours of the night, would-be concert-goers approached the open-air stages in disbelief.

Some shouted obscenities at the vacant sight while others huddled in groups, trying to figure out how to catch another event and salvage their New Year's Eve.

On Saturday night, representatives of Giant Village issued a statement saying they would honor the tickets at a "makeup event," but had no details on the location, date or talent available.

Organizers did not say whether they would consider issuing refunds for tickets, some of which cost more than $100.

Organizers said they had been advised by city officials that "the extreme weather conditions caused serious concern for public safety," and that "based on these discussions and the city's recommendations, we determined to accede to the city's direction to postpone the event at this time."

Times special correspondent Chris Lee contributed to this report.

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