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Five years ago, the DLBA created the Spirit of Downtown Awards and honored four champions of DTLB we had lost that year: Shaun Lumachi, founder of the Long Beach Post; Larry Allison, long-respected Editor of the Press-Telegram; Bill Baker, a famed volunteer and redevelopment master; and Mark Bixby, Long Beach’s bicycling king who largely headed our City’s massive biking infrastructure and culture.

This year’s honorees make up a class of downtown community members who have continuously gone above and beyond the call of duty to help shape Downtown, and Long Beach as a whole. And while there’s always much more to be done, having champions like todays Spirit of Downtown Award Recipients truly highlights all of the progress that has been made in Downtown Long Beach.

Learn more about this year’s honorees below:

Josh Fischel

There are few people who truly embody the spirit of Downtown the way Josh Fischel did. He was the kind of Artist who continually dreamt of big things for Long Beach; the kind of things that make Long Beach a music-centric heaven.

In 2016 alone he continued to curate DLBA’s Live After 5 music series, and, of course produced the largest music festival Long Beach has seen: Music Tastes Good. Sadly, he passed away days after the festival. His legacy will always live on through the music and Josh Fischel’s Music Tastes Good festival.

Jan Van Dijs

Jan Van Dijs has brought new life to Downtown Long Beach’s historic buildings. From Psychic Temple to the Edison Lofts, Jan has used his immense talent and perfectionist eye to help develop Downtown Long Beach without losing our unique sense of place.

If ever there were a historian dedicated to DTLB, Jan would be it. These buildings provide texture and give Long Beach a degree of character. Though he gets calls for work around the world, Jan chooses to focus on Long Beach, that in and of itself is a testament to how much he embodies the Spirit of Downtown.

PARA Playground Committee

The four women of the Promenade Area Residents Association (PARA) Playground Committee, Deb Kahookele, Lisa Callamaro, Kristin Dunn, and Joen Garnica, saw a need for a safe, kid-friendly place in Downtown and decided to take action. The Tot Lot, the first playground in Long Beach’s downtown urban core opened last fall amid dozens of cheering children. It’s a true illustration of community members taking action to make a difference in Downtown.

The idea started to become a reality after Deb attended a DLBA Capital Improvements Committee task force meeting in 2013. They applied for and received a $10,000 DLBA grant and continued to raise funds and awareness for the project. These women stand as a shining example of what an idea and lots of hard work can contribute to our Downtown.