OB’s street fair, chili cook-off poised to dazzle and sizzle
by Bart Mendoza
Jun 21, 2013 | 2471 views | 0 0 comments | 31 31 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The Ocean Beach Street Fair & Chili Cook-Off Festival returns for its 34th installment on Saturday, June 22. An estimated 70,000 visitors are expected to revel in the streets and take in the sights and sounds of this sun-splashed seaside hamlet that prides itself on community spirit and its unrivaled location adjacent to the glistening Pacific. The theme of this year’s street fair is “Wonderland,” a 100th-year celebration of San Diego’s first amusement park right here in Ocean Beach in 1913. Photo by Jim Grant I The Beacon
The Ocean Beach Street Fair & Chili Cook-Off Festival returns for its 34th installment on Saturday, June 22. An estimated 70,000 visitors are expected to revel in the streets and take in the sights and sounds of this sun-splashed seaside hamlet that prides itself on community spirit and its unrivaled location adjacent to the glistening Pacific. The theme of this year’s street fair is “Wonderland,” a 100th-year celebration of San Diego’s first amusement park right here in Ocean Beach in 1913. Photo by Jim Grant I The Beacon
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It’s true that pretty much every neighborhood has some sort of community gathering on its annual calendar. But in San Diego, nothing compares to the Ocean Beach Street Fair and Chili Cook-Off Festival. Now in its 34th year, the event’s seaside location and friendly atmosphere makes it easy to see why more than 70,000 visitors annually take part in the festivities. Visitors strolling down Newport Avenue and the cross streets will find a multitude of fun activities to stimulate the senses. With more than 250 vendors and artisans on hand, fairgoers will be able to find foods from around the world, as well arts and crafts ranging from jewelry to paintings. Denny Knox, executive director of the Ocean Beach MainStreet Association, has been associated with the street fair since its inception. She said she’s amazed at how the event has expanded over the decades. “We grew it from a couple of picnic tables and barbecuing on a Weber grill — with a little music — into what it is today, with tens of thousands of people exploring the streets of Ocean Beach,” she said. Among the street fair’s highlights are the wildly popular chili-cook off competition and six stages of music, but also increasingly popular is the Artists’ Alley section. Now taking up two blocks of Cable Street, this part of the street fair has grown into one of the top events locally for original arts and crafts. However, what truly separates this street fair from the others is the neighborhood feel and community unity. Family friendly, the event includes a fun zone for children, but beyond the rides, food and music, there is a real sense of civic pride to the proceedings. It’s inherent from the street fair’s main-stage opening with youngster Jaylin Brown singing the National Anthem and the opportunity for fairgoers to participate in the painting of a community mural. There will also be a raffle with prizes from area vendors, as well as donation boxes, with proceeds going to help fund the community’s annual Fourth of July fireworks display. Wonderland Amusement Park takes center stage again after 100 years This year’s street fair theme celebrates the 100th anniversary of the short-lived but historically rich Wonderland Amusement Park. Operating between 1913 and 1916, the park’s opening kicked off the era of Ocean Beach as a resort town. When Wonderland opened on July 4, 1913, it drew a crowd of 35,000 people to Ocean Beach, which was then a community of only 300 residents. Although the early amusement park — the first to be built in the city of San Diego — only lasted for three years, its brief existence was pivotal to the development of Ocean Beach, according to members of the Ocean Beach Historical Society. The park even included the largest roller coaster on the West Coast at the time. Originally located at Abbott Street between Volatire Street and the ocean, the park is long gone, washed away by the sea in a brutal storm. But it’s legacy lives on, in a way, in the San Diego Zoo. When Wonderland closed, it’s menagerie was rented to the Panama-California Exposition taking place in 1915-16 at Balboa Park. The menagerie was later sold to the zoo. More details about the street fair The Ocean Beach Street Fair and Chili Cook-Off continues to be the showcase of the community, with its wealth of activities, food offerings, arts displays and people watching. But another key ingredient to the event’s success is its huge lineup of musical entertainers, which this year will feature 38 performers on six different stages, ranging from from Americana to hip-hop. This year’s performers were once again booked by Winston’s Beach Club owner Ted Wigler and Head Trap Music Studio chief Michael Head. “We had hundreds of artists apply,” said Head. “The chance to play in front of a large, all-ages audience like this is coveted by bands from throughout the country.” Jeffrey Dewine of the soul-jazz hybrid band The Krass Brothers, which performs on the Wonderland Stage at 5 p.m., agreed. “We were recently discussing the concept of performing for people who don’t have the means to go out for a night at the club. This event allows everyone in the community to have an opportunity to enjoy live music and arts for free,” said Dewine. The Main Stage sits at the foot of Newport Avenue, next to the beer garden. Here, in addition to music throughout the day, you’ll also hear the singing of the National Anthem by Jaylin Brown when the event officially kicks off at 10:50 a.m. The naming of this year’s winners in the chili cook-off competition takes place at 2 p.m. New this year is a game and small-ride area at Saratoga Park, located at Ebers Street and Saratoga Avenue, with interactive activities for all ages like bungee runs and wall climbing. For anyone who would rather avoid the traffic and parking situations inherent in such large gatherings, there will be four free trolleys running continuously every half-hour from 9:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Fairgoers can park their cars at two outer parking lots (Robb Field and The Sunrunner Lot at Pacific Highway and Sea World Drive) and shuttle directly to the street fair, with the dropoff directly at Artists’ Alley. Meanwhile, those opting for a greener form of transportation will find a bicycle valet service in front of Winston’s Beach Club on Bacon Street, courtesy of the Bicycle Coalition. With 34 years of working on the street fair to her credit, Knox said she is thrilled to witness what the event has grown into since its inception as a truly grassroots neighborhood party. “I love the wonder of it all when people come to the event,” she said. “Just standing there, you can see all the people and how much fun they’re having. That’s my favorite part.”
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