Pershing Square - Los Angeles, California - Free Concerts and Cultural Programs in Downtown L.A

Located in the heart of downtown Los Angeles, Pershing Square is an outdoor concert and event center funded by the Downtown Community, City of Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks and the County of Los Angeles. It was originally designed by Fred Eaton and first dedicated for public use by Mayor Aguilar in 1866. At that time the park was known as "La Plaza Abaja.''

In 1911, John Parkinson redesigned the park to reflect the city's social and economic growth. Throughout World War I, the recreational facility was often used as a site for militia receptions and as a forum for public speakers. In November 1918, the park was formally renamed Pershing Square in recognition of General John Joseph Pershing (1860~1948), a great leader during the War.

A 1,800-car garage was constructed beneath the park in the 1950s. Then, in 1989, the Pershing Square Property Association and the Community Redevelopment Agency took the lead yet another major facelift in cooperation with the Department of Recreation. In charge of the renovations were noted architect Ricardo Legoretta and landscapist Laurie Olin. The current park plan was completed in February 1994.

Today, Pershing Square hosts a wide variety of free programs for the local community. It serves as a venue for introducing up-and-coming talents and a gathering place for many who might otherwise not have access to such an eclectic array of public entertainment.

Throughout the year, Pershing Parks stages free lunch concerts intermittently. Many are conducted on Tuesdays, although the schedule can vary greatly from month to month, not only in the number of concerts and days performed but also in terms of the variety of music presented. Groups range from classical string quartets to rock, hip hop and a cappella. Most concerts last two hours and start a noon.

Free afternoon concerts are held on most Sundays from 2pm to 4pm. Musical styles represented run the gamut of tributes from Johnny Cash to Neil Diamond. There are modern Latino bands, 50s and 60s rockers, and even throwbacks to earlier times, such as the Zoot Suit Revue.

Perhaps most popular of Pershing Park's concert series are its evening concerts, held on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. Again, local talent from all genres can be seen and heard at these free performances. Running from 8pm to 10pm, the concerts cover everything from disco to country, heavy metal and R&B.

On Saturdays, a special series of youth programs is held. Week by week there are circus-style clown acts, mimes and jugglers, magicians, balloon artists, and comedians putting on variety shows and just about every kind of children's entertainment imaginable. Times vary.

In winter, Pershing Park transforms itself into a true wonderland, setting up an outdoor ice skating rink for two months - mid-November through mid-January. A $6 admission is charged, and skates are available for rental at $2 per pair. During December, the ice-skating is complemented by a Winter Holiday Festival with puppet shows, crafts classes, a miniature train village, and more.

Easily accessible by car, bus or rail, Pershing Square is located at 532 South Olive Street, Los Angeles, California 90013. It can be reached from City Hall on the Dash B or the Garland Building on the Dash E. The Metro Red Line has an exit at Pershing Square (5th Street), and the Montebello Express Bus and Line 40 stop nearby. For those who drive, convenient underground parking is available.

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