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CELEBRATE DOWNTOWN LANCASTER IS 1ST OF MEET-YOUR-NEIGHBOR EVENTS FEST TO FEATURE WINE, FARMERS MARKET, FILM.

Byline: Charles F. Bostwick Staff Writer

LANCASTER - Two blocks of Lancaster Boulevard will be closed for five hours July 22 for a street festival featuring a jazz band, wine tasting, an antique car show, a farmers market and an outdoor silent movie.

The Celebrate Downtown Lancaster festival is expected to be the first of other downtown events intended to encourage Lancaster residents to get to know each other and to promote the city's traditional business center.

``The center of the city is the soul of Lancaster, regardless of where the shopping centers go,'' said downtown architect Myrle McLernon, president of the downtown business organization Lancaster Old Town Site. ``Any city needs a soul.''

Celebrate Downtown Lancaster is to run from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. July 22 on Lancaster Boulevard between Fern and Elm avenues. Grammy-winning percussionist Poncho Sanchez's Latin jazz band will perform at 7:30 p.m. Admission is free.

The city's Western Hotel museum, in Lancaster's oldest surviving building, will host an ice cream social from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. July 22. Ice-cream social admission is $4 a person and $1 for children age 11 and younger.

The 1927 Buster Keaton silent movie ``The General'' will be shown at 9 p.m. behind the Western Hotel. Movie admission is included with the ice-cream social price, or alone is $2 a person for ages 12 and older.

The festival comes as city officials propose creating a specific plan and a retail plan to preserve downtown's characteristics and economic viability.

The Antelope Valley's economic center from the beginning of the 20th century until the 1980s, Lancaster's downtown dwindled in importance with the construction of shopping centers, first elsewhere in Lancaster, and more recently in Palmdale.

``This was the main street in Antelope Valley,'' said Lancaster Mayor Frank Roberts, whose family came to Lancaster after World War II and operated a downtown restaurant.

Lancaster Boulevard retains an advantage over other communities' downtowns because of its performing arts center, museums and library, City Manager Bob LaSala said.

``We have a platform, we have a foundation in Lancaster that is really the envy of a lot of communities,'' LaSala said. ``You go to a lot of suburban communities and people say there is no there there. We have a there.''

Besides promoting downtown, LaSala said, the festival encourages Lancaster residents to get to know their fellow citizens.

``We suffer today in our society from a lack of community, a lack of connectedness. Here's an opportunity to come together, to commune and to connect,'' LaSala said.

If the July 22 festival succeeds, LaSala said, it could be followed by concerts, an art and wine festival, and youth activities.

``I'd love to see a farmers market on Saturday mornings on Lancaster Boulevard,'' La Sala said.

Charles F. Bostwick, (661) 267-5742

chuck.bostwick(at)dailynews.com

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(color) Announcing the Celebrate Downtown Lancaster festival are, from left, Lancaster Old Town Site President Myrle McLernon, Lancaster City Manager Bob LaSala and Steve Malicott from the Antelope Valley Chamber of Commerce.

Jeff Goldwater/Staff Photographer
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Jun 9, 2005
Words:516
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