An extra shot of health consciousness threaded itself into the bustling arteries of on Saturday afternoon, with about 50 businesses and services setting up booths for Santa Monica's Health and Fitness Festival.
Hosted by the , the festival tapped into the wide range of local vendors geared toward wellness. The mix included sustainable food, massage chairs, homeopathic medicine and lessons in yoga, boxing, self-defense and full-body workouts.
“It’s a great opportunity for residents and visitors to get to know our businesses personally,” said Brian Chase, director of government affairs with the chamber.
The sheer variety of health and fitness offerings inspired the theme of the day, Pulse of the Community, marketing and events coordinator Magdalena Davis said. According to her, Santa Monica as a whole is strongly geared toward living well.
“It’s present in every aspect [of the community],” Davis said.
As noon approached, Latin dance music radiated from the middle of the promenade.
“Step, cross, step, heel,” instructor Rita Ashton called out from the stage. About 20 people participated in the 30-minute zumba workout.
Sylviane Fleury, a tourist from Switzerland, stepped in off the street in her blue flip-flops to take part.
“It’s cool to dance in the street,” she said with a smile.
The Zumbettes barely noticed the crowds of people pooling around the stage. In fact, the venue seemed more lively than a gym setting.
“We should do this all the time,” Ashton said enthusiastically, after the workout was over.
The chamber has worked this year to make booths more attractive to visitors, Davis said. Vendors stepped up to the challenge with a variety of free activities and services.
Shelly Bobbins threw a dart near the bulls-eye of a dartboard and won a free dental cleaning from Brentwood Smile.
“I have never done that before,” said the Santa Monica resident with a laugh, adding that she plans to use the coupon, which is worth $90.
For most, the festival enhanced what was originally simply a visit to Third Street. Yane Hsu, who lives in the Marina area, and her visiting friend, Tina Estoque, spooned up coconut curry tartlet and talked about the P90X fitness boot camp demonstration with instructor Tony Horton in the central stage area.
“There’s always something on the Promenade,” Hsu said.
The Saturday timing harmonized with the . Jaimiey Barksdale, who rode her bike in for the market, also ended up exploring the booths at the festival.
Some residents actually received a health consultation. When she wakes in the morning, Santa Monica resident Laura Lynn Allen experiences numbness in her hands.
She told this to Carlo Arias, clinical manager for the UCLA Center for East West Medicine, as she sat down in a massage chair next to the center's shaded booth.
Carlo Arias expertly rubbed his hands along her forearm, shaking firmly. He also pressed into the area around her neck.
Pain shot through Allen’s arms.
“It really hurts,” Allen said, her face pressed into the headrest of the massage chair, with Arias responding affirmatively, “It hurts, right?”
It’s supposed to feel that way, he told her—the pain in her arms is associated with a nerve problem in her neck.
She asked if the Center for East-West Medicine takes insurance. He tells her they do.
“I’ve been looking for a doctor to prescribe something to deal with that,” Allen said.
She said she wouldn’t have known to go to the East-West Medicine for help with her condition otherwise.
“It’s wonderful community information,” Allen said.
The festival concluded with a raffle of more than $3,000 worth of prizes and a dance lesson in honor of National Dance Day, which originated with the executive producer of the show So You Think You Can Dance.
Former show contestant and Los Angeles resident Jeffery "Machine" McCann led a high-energy dance lesson in the Melbourne Shuffle with his company West Bound. McCann’s wife, Sarah "Smalls" McCann, is the marketing manager of Pacific Park on Santa Monica Pier.
The dance was taped and may be shown on So You Think You Can Dance's web site, McCann said.
"Hopefully everyone will see how we roll in Santa Monica," McCann said.