Music, Sunshine, Rain and Rainbows

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Despite the bracing chill and ensuing rainstorm on Sunday, a substantial crowd filled the field at the 46th annual Topanga Days. Fittingly, the unprecedented rain came on the 50th anniversary of Woodstock—a similarly inspired, free-spirited event, likewise inundated with stormy weather.  

While the rain drenched fairgoers, it never seemed to dampen their spirits. Attendees and organizers alike made the most of it. They donned heavy coats and shawls while dancing for warmth and drinking the bar’s special offering of hot, spiced wine. The emcee quipped about the intermittent showers providing a dramatic effect for the egg toss and bucket fill contests.

When two-time Grammy winner Fantastic Negrito took the stage, seemingly on cue, the drizzle became a deluge. A few revelers sported leopard print and polka-dotted umbrellas, while most, both young and old, danced freely in the downpour embracing the mud. The band, led with magnetic charm by Xavier Dphrepaulezz, worked the crowd into a joyous frenzy with infectious drumbeats and soulful call-and-response refrains. As if beckoned by the energy emanating from the throng, the clouds finally parted, and the sun fully emerged for the first time that day. The soaked spectators welcomed it.

Other memorable moments marked the occasion. Sebastian MacDonald broke the record for the Cherry Seed Spitting contest launching his seed nearly 40 feet. Melanie Kareem Middle Eastern Dance School celebrated their twentieth year performing at Topanga Days and, inspired in part by the muddy conditions, the Tug of War contest returned to the fair for the first time in two decades. At the tail end of the festivities, attendees eagerly jumped into action for an impromptu match. The kids’ team prevailed—a fitting finale for an enchanting day.  

By Samantha Johnson

Topanga Days 2019

Don’t Change Topanga, Let Topanga Change You!

This seemed to be the message of Topanga Days 2019.  It was a sign posted on floats in the parade. It was a sticker attached to the back of a reveler’s t-shirt.  Someone wore it proudly stuck to the brim of his cowboy hat. And, yes, one could feel change in the air: people move, businesses change, and children grow up. Oh, break my heart!

Fortunately, there remains something steadfast, hometown, and oh, so familiar about our Topanga Days. The rollicking Memorial Day parade, the fair, still filled with spirit, friends, fairies, mermaids, goats, horses, opalescent bubbles dancing in the air, drumbeats and  banjo music, rock and roll, painted faces, tie dye, the scent of incense (and something else) carried on the breeze, boy scouts, hippies, and flying pigs. God bless it.

Young Max Portman, son of our former, well-loved Topanga Days Master of Ceremonies, Billy Portman, was visiting from the east coast. Back for Topanga Days, Max said, “Yes, the scene is new, but the community is strong!”

A true community feeling was shared at the Community House Corral Stage inside, to enjoy the first band of Monday’s lineup: The Brothers Gage, youthful locals, Alex and Brody, played guitars and harmonicas combining country twang, soul, and rock and roll, with a charming, fun, and professional appeal beyond their years.

Appreciating the music was 28-year, Topanga Days veteran Chuck Berez. “Topanga Days represents the best of Topanga folk,” he said. “It’s the giving that makes you what you are and in Topanga there’s a whole lot of giving and love in the air.”

First-time attendee Megan Grieco moved to Topanga in September. “Being at Topanga Days is the most at home I’ve felt since then. I’ve found my place,” she said.  

Down on the Main Stage, young and old gathered for the revelry of The Animal Imitation Contest. Hardworking and witty Emcee, Adam Noble Roberts, along with host, Adam Silbar, kept the fun coming as the stage became a menagerie of monkeys, pigs, cats, a crab, Susan Clark as a stubborn mule, Starbuck as a lion, one crow, a sheep, a chicken, and a T-Rex. The winner was a hearty young man, Dan Ross, visiting from New Jersey, whose wild monkey was a showstopper.

Apple bobbing left everyone wet; a wild dance contest won by Jasper James for his enthusiastic abandon; and a “Find Your Partner While Blindfolded” contest. One blindfolded lady kept bumping into handsome men, “accidently.” Two delightful 10-year-old girls, Sabrina Orci and Soledad Kirk, were among the winners.

Thirsty revelers stopped for a glass of Karen Dannenbaum’s World Famous Sangria, that “has taken me five years to perfect the recipe,” she said. And, yes, it’s pretty perfect! Also at the wine bar, Hannah and Carson Fagerbakke, now all grown up in beauty, dispensed wine like two young Topanga Goddesses.

Back at the Corral Stage, Canyon Grass reminded us what Topanga boys do best: playing some downhome, old-school bluegrass that just made you feel good. Later in the afternoon, the Hillmen presented their rocking, improvisational sound tinged with a touch of psychedelia. Later, Meslin Snider, offered their fun fusion of American roots music with hints of swing and alt country.

As more people poured through the gates, the ball field was a patchwork of blankets, towels, colored umbrellas, and a vast cross-section of humanity ready and willing to celebrate being alive, in Topanga, on an afternoon in May. Hula hoops twirled, children jumped in bouncys, old friends greeted each other, and one man slept.

The Main Stage didn’t stop rocking throughout the afternoon with the fiery duo, Pyro Pyro; the return of the ever popular, Venice, who helped us smile on our brothers and sisters; local cool guys, The Greenhorn Brothers; and charismatic headliner, Lukas Nelson and Promise of The Real. The promise was fulfilled.

As you leave Topanga Days, you should always stop for a final look from up above, down at the ball field, filled with dancing people. The great spirit of the fair and our community vibrates amongst the mountains, with a kaleidoscopic panorama that is bigger, brighter, and more brilliant than any individual, because it is all of us. For those three days in May, we come together, honoring the past, celebrating the present, and dreaming of a better future.

Sometimes we even get a rainbow. Oh, stay, Topanga.


By Kathie Gibboney


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