By Sam Skopp
The annual Health & Fitness Festival returned Saturday Sept. 9 to Santa Monica, this year at its new Christina Reed Emerson Park location. Each year, the event, which is co-produced by the City of Santa Monica, the Santa Monica Chamber of Commerce, Buy Local Santa Monica and the Santa Monica-Malibu Education Foundation, invites local businesses and organizations to come together for a community event focused on the wellbeing of Santa Monica locals.
“We’re really pleased to be here,” said Jennifer Taylor, Santa Monica Buy Local Committee Chair. “It feels right. It’s fun to be in a park with trees and grass.”
Taylor explained that this year’s event featured 95 exhibitors, whereas last year there was about 70. Among these were businesses ranging from small bakeries and workout studios to the UCLA Health Center, which she cited as being the city’s largest employer.
Bezian Bakery was one of the small businesses represented at the festival. The bakery is located in East Hollywood, and has a weekly booth at the Arizona Avenue Farmers Market. Isabel Gallegos, their Sales and Marketing Rep, explained that their bread is made egg-free with wild yeast and a sourdough probiotic culture.
“We’re making bread healthier,” Gallegos said. “There’s a lot of support for everything healthy here. A lot of people are coming out so it’s a very outdoorsy crowd.”
The Santa Monica Family YMCA was another local organization represented at the festival. Mary Kay Campbell, who is a Healthy Living Director at the local YMCA, explained that they were at the festival to raise awareness of the full range of their facilities.
“We have a lot of senior programs and older adult programs that a lot of people don’t know about,” Campbell said. “And we have a lot of fitness programs for kids.”
Many of those visiting the festival were families with children, and many booths included child-friendly activities, like prize wheels and a face-hole board to pose for photos.
“Our school community is so grateful for the Buy Local initiative, because it brings desperately needed funds into our public schools,” said Linda Greenberg, Executive Director of the Santa Monica-Malibu Education Foundation.
Since Reed Park has exercise machines, a “workout challenge” was outlined on a whiteboard, in addition to a workout circuit utilizing the machines. Additionally, runners participating in the Santa Monica Classic 5k and 10k runs, which took place the following day, were able to pick up their racing bibs at the festival.
The park’s stage also featured entertainment throughout the day, which included dance and fitness lessons, the Santa Monica High Marching Band, a World Music and Jazz band, and more. For more information on upcoming Buy Local Santa Monica events, visit buylocalsantamonica.com.