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Blessing of the Animals celebrates God's creations on Olvera Street Saturday

By Andrew Lopez
Published: Thursday, April 05, 2012, at 02:44PM
Flickr via Greg Lilly

A pet iguana attends the Blessing of the Animals on Olvera Street.

Pet owners will gather this Saturday for the 82-year-old tradition known as the Blessing of the Animals, hosted by the Olvera Street Merchants Association.

The day will begin at the El Pueblo Historical Monument at 2 p.m. with a procession though the merchants’ area. The blessings, given out by Archbishop Jose H. Gomez, will follow immediately after.

The blessings are meant to remind us humans just how important animals are in our lives, Tod Tamberg, spokesman for the Archbishop, said.

“The Gospel talks about humans being the caretakers of all creation,” Tamberg explained. “It’s a sign that these animals are of God’s creation.”

Aside from more common pets like dogs and cats, animal lovers are encouraged to bring their snakes, iguanas and whatever other exotic companions they may own to experience the prayer and holy water.

The event is expected to attract between 3,000 and 4,000 festival-goers, John Kopczynski, events manager at El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historical Monument said. He believes that what makes the festival so popular is a mix between tradition and its uniqueness.

"It's just kind of taken on its own life," Kopczynski said. "There's just nothing else like it."

Valerie Hanley, a member of the merchants association who's been helping organizing the event for over a decade, said the tradition is a respectful nod to Olvera Street's ancestors.

"We're really continuing what our parents and founders have done for years," she said.

Surprisingly, there haven't been many issues with a large number of animals all gathered in one space.

"They seem to manage it pretty well," Tamberg said. "Most of (the animals) are pretty calm -- even the cats."

Tamberg said that while there's a religious meaning to the blessings, the fun nature of it allows the less-than-religious participants to feel comfortable at the event.

But that doesn’t mean that animals staying home on Saturday are doomed to suffer eternity in pet purgatory.

“It’s not a question of good animals or bad animals,” Tamberg said. “It isn’t a baptism.”

Even the Satanic Church seems to smile a little at the idea of the tradition.

"As Satanists we respect and exalt life," Rev. "Knife" Sotelo said. "Children and animals are the purest expressions of that life force, and as such are held sacred and precious."

Entertainment will also be provided throughout the day, including Mariachi, Charros and Banda music. Children will be able to enjoy pony rides and petting zoos, starring sheep, cows, llamas and other four-legged friends.

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