Marina del Rey Marks Its First Half Century

The water-snug community prepares for a celebratory year.

To paint the Southern California with a region-large brush is to miss the fact that every single one of the dozens upon dozens of communities found here have a distinct story, memorable historical characters, and a location that shapes the community's direction, outlook, and future.

Marina del Rey is such a place, an unincorporated city that can tick the boxes on both important players from history (Moye C. Wicks is a name you hear often in the area's early development) and a location that has lent it its big identity (that boaty boat-filled harbor).

It is not interchangeable with one of our mountain communities, or a city on the edge of the desert. It's Marina del Rey, emphasis on the Marina, and it turns 50 in 2015.

MarinaFest, a three-day party in early April, will celebrate the Marina's half-century birthday, with birthday cakes, speeches, tall ships, and fireworks. (That's how you truly do a 50th.) And a caboodle of annual to-dos will take on that celebratory tone, including a Polar Plunge at Mother's Beach on the last day of February.

The snug harbor, with its forest of masts and shore-close mid-century-cool buildings, is truly one of SoCal's long-running play places, and in-the-city escape that often inspires people to say they feel as if they're on vacation. (A forest of masts and lines of handsome boats is a sight that tends to inspire such proclamations.)

Want to know more about the area before heading into its big 50th year? A short documentary looks back on the years leading up to Marina del Rey's 1965 dedication. "The plan was to turn a quiet, seaside marsh land into a major commercial harbor," reveals the doc. The mondo Port Ballona did not come to pass, but harbor dreams continued as oil fields blossomed and, later, recreational use around the middle of the last century.

Which proves again that every sliver of Southern California has an up-and-down timeline. It takes awhile to stand out in our crowded megalopolis, but once an identity is landed upon, and lauded, it holds. Happy 50th, Marina del Rey: You're proof of that.

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