It was Easter Sunday 1967 when throngs of young people descended on the fields of Elysian Park for the Los Angeles Love-In. One of those who attended the one-day festival was 10-year-old Benjamin Kidwell Lein, who arrived in the pre-dawn hours to help erect a 20-foot-high Egyptian Ankh that he and friends had made from plywood, chicken wire and paper mache. Now, 50 years later, Lein, who lives in Highland Park, is preparing to honor the memory and spirit of that first love-in.
This Easter Sunday, April 16, Lein has organized a sunrise 50th anniversary ceremony in the same playing fields and picnic areas where the 1967 Love-In took place.
News of the first Los Angeles Love-In spread by word-of-mouth and was promoted by the Los Angeles Free-Press. An orange-and-green psychedelic-style poster advised people to “Bring Bells, Flutes, Flags, Drums & Flowers” as well as “Tangerines, Food, Incense, Candles & Joy.”
The Los Angeles Times, in a story headlined “Hippies Fill Glen With Splendors of Love and Miniskirts,” estimated that 4,000 people came to the park to spread love, dance, eat and listen to groups like “The Peanut Butter Conspiracy.”
For Lein, one of the most memorable moments of the Love-In was when crowds began to arrive in the early morning darkness:“What I remember most- the picture that remains most vivid in this then-ten-year-old’s mind- was a sea of candlelight,” said Lein in description of the event. “An ocean of light as the few hundred early arrivals filled the fields at sunrise.”
This Sunday’s anniversary will be held from 4:30 am to 8:30 am in the “Section 9” Picnic Areas and Soccer Field – about 100 yards north of Academy Way and Solano Canyon Road on the eastern edge of Elysian Park. The public and “fellow travelers” are welcome.
Given the current political climate, Lein says it’s a good time to celebrate the ideas of the Love-In. He provided more background:
“There was, as you can imagine, a lot of candles and incense and music and dancing. And weed. The Vietnam war was escalating, so there were a lot of stalwart anti-war activists like the venerable General Hershey Bar. Hoyt Axton sat under a tree playing his guitar and singing. There were a couple of Monkees around. That’s the band, by the way.
There was a 20’ tall ankh. There were Mandalas. The Strawberry Alarm Clock played. People had their faces painted. Lots of people got high. And then went home…
Given the daily dose of seemingly insurmountable political and cultural violence heaped upon us on a daily basis, maybe a little peace and love wouldn’t be such a bad thing.”
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