LOS ANGELES— Weekends are usually a time for the LA Galaxy to entertain fans with their play on the field. The Galaxy spent this past Saturday, however, engaging their fans in a different way.
With more than three weeks between first team MLS matches the Galaxy had time to participate in the La Curacao Feria De Los Niños in downtown Los Angeles. The block party-type event was held behind the La Curacao building in the community of Pico Union. In addition to food and entertainment, free activities ranged from carnival games to a petting zoo, as well as mini soccer fields and the chance to meet four Galaxy players.
“It’s a good opportunity for our community to come out and have a family activity with their kids,” said Ruth Garcia, La Curacao Marketing and Advertising Manager.
Fans lined up even before the players arrived to spin the Galaxy prize wheel and watch the LA Galaxy Futboleros, flavored by Shasta, perform their juggling tricks. People from other lines stopped to watch the skillful display and some pulled out cameras to record the show. Even a few young kids joined in, smiling and laughing as the Futboleros alternated between letting them have a kick of the ball and playing keep-away with their slick passing.
The longest lines may have been for things you could take a ride on – horses, go-karts and even elephants! – but once the first two Galaxy players, defender A.J. DeLaGarza and midfielder Hector Jimenez, showed up, the line in front of the Galaxy booth grew to an approximately 30-minute long wait.
“I just came because of the Galaxy,” said teenager Pedro Bautista, who arrived wearing his white Galaxy jersey. “It’s cool seeing them out in the community.”
Fans got a chance to shake hands with the players, get an autograph, chat and take a picture.
“For us, it’s a great opportunity to have the Galaxy here, because our community, the Hispanic community, is very into soccer,” Garcia said. “To have the [MLS] Champions here and having players here from the Galaxy it’s a great opportunity to see in these soccer players, the success they could have in the future. It’s a motivational opportunity for our community and our kids to have the opportunity to see them and talk to them.”
DeLaGarza and Jimenez spent almost an hour and a half signing autographs and taking pictures before the second set of players, midfielders Juninho and Marcelo Sarvas, arrived to take over.
“I feel like I’m going to faint,” young fan Mike Tran, Jr. said after he and his family, all decked out in Galaxy jerseys, went through the line.
The event provided a chance for the Galaxy to reach out to a community that loves the sport and connect on a more personal level than usually exists between professional athletes and fans.
“I think it’s very important. It tells a lot about them, how they want to contribute to the community. … They don’t seem stuck up,” said Magali Millan who came with her sister Caren.
It was obvious that the players enjoyed themselves too. Even after finishing their autograph session, DeLaGarza and Jimenez stuck around, working the prize wheel and taking more pictures with fans.
In total, an estimated 45,000 people attended the event on the warm afternoon. This was the 17th year that La Curacao has held the Feria De Los Niños, which means "Children’s Fair" in Spanish.