Local music school / studio, Rock ‘n’ Roll San Diego, will be returning with a host of activities throughout the day at their booth on Newport Avenue. On hand from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. will be a KISS tribute band, as well as a number of local bands. / Photo by Thomas Melville
San Diego lucky to have many great summertime events on its annual calendar, but even amongst an embarrassment of riches, The OB Street Fair is a standout. Now in its 40th year, on June 22 from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. more than 70,000 people are expected to take part in the festivities along Newport Avenue and its side streets.
Four stages will provide entertainment, with an interactive fun zone, a two block long Artists Alley, featuring unique hand crafted items, a beachside beer garden and a community mural, among the events many highlights. It’s a full day of fun in the sun with folks enjoying a mix of music, art and food, right at the foot of the ocean.
“This year’s theme is the OB parrot,” said Ocean Beach Mainstreet Association director Denny Knox. “The parrots have become synonymous with Ocean Beach, they are such a colorful embodiment of the area, that it’s a perfect match,” she said.
A long time event organizer, Knox considers the months spent putting together such a massive event to be well worth the effort. “It always takes a lot of hard work, a lot of people to make this happen. We want the OB Street Fair to be something that is for everybody, with things that interest both young and old.”
While the music and food are the obvious big draws, Knox notes there is an oft mentioned bonus with the OB Street Fair. “There is a real sense of community, both amongst the people who stage the event and the people who attend it. It’s a wonderful time.”
Musical performers this year will include award-winning Zydeco band, The Bayou Brothers, indie rock quintet, The Heavy Guilt, featuring Alfred Howard of Cow Records, country band, Sickstring Outlaws.
“One thing we are adding this year is a ‘happy hour’ in the beer garden, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.,” said Ted Wigler, who books the event alongside Michael Head, and has been volunteering in that capacity for 16 years. “It will hopefully get folks out into the area a little earlier.”
In addition to music, the main stage will host various contests and announcements. “We have a new competition, the inuagural Dirty Birds Wing Eating Contest (1:20 p.m.), alongside an old favorite, Hodad's Burger Eating Contest (4 p.m.), and the Chili Cook-Off winners’ announcement (2:30 p.m.).”
After 16 years, Wigler is just as enthused as ever about volunteering his time.
“It’s important to give back,” he said. “Ocean Beach is a great place and it feels good to be able to help out. And there is a bonus. It’s a day I get interact with new outdoor crowds, see what’s hot, pick up on what new bands are happening and so on. It’s a great way to connect.”
Become a star
Attendees don’t have to just listen to music at this year’s OB Street Fair. Thanks to local music school / rehearsal studio, Rock ‘n’ Roll San Diego, they can also take free music lessons, on keyboards, guitar, bass or drums and perform at the studios booth, from 4 to 6 p.m., guided by the school’s teachers.
“Our instructors can have someone performing a basic rock song in just a few minutes,” said sales manager and event coordinator Shannon Woods. “To give inspiration, we have a kid band that we put together that will kick off the instruction portion of the day, The Main Stage Maniacs (4 p.m.). They feature an age range of 8 to 17 and show what lessons can do.”
It’s a great way for a budding musician to dip their toe in the musical waters. “What’s particularly cool for someone that’s never played before is that after their lesson, they can perform for the crowds, using the same guitars, amps and pa as the showcase bands,” Woods said. “It’ll be fun.”
One of the Street Fair’s most popular events is the annual creation of a community mural. Children and adults of all ages are welcome to purchase a $20 square at the mural area on Bacon Street just south of Newport. After the Street Fair, the murals are sealed and installed in the area.
“This is my favorite part of the street fair” said Ivana Ramirez, of Brown Marketing, who handle OB Street Fair media. “It really spotlights the whole community aspect of the event,” Ramirez said. “I love to see people of all ages working together to create something that the whole area can enjoy.”
Funds raised from the entries go toward installing the art, as well as maintaining the displays year-round.
Friends & family
The OB Street Fair has become one of the city’s most beloved events with not only audiences, but also with the area’s musicians. “We love our hometown and the people in it,” said reggae singer-songwriter Skyler Lutes. “It was always a dream to play the Street Fair. When I was kid, I would watch the bands play, surf the pier all day and hang with friends. It’s always been such a special day in summer for us.”
Head concurs. “I love the seeing the families, the kids and everyone just all mixing together and having a great time,” he said.
Head considers all the hard work from everyone to be well worth it. “I still love to give back to OB and help as much as I can with the event,” he remarked. “I love to see 70,000 of my closest friends down in OB having the time of their life. That’s what it’s all about!”
“I love it when a lot of people gather together and learn new things,” Woods said of the Street Fair. “It’s exciting, there is chemistry in the air. Music is a time capsule that elevates the experience.”
For her part, Knox notes that work on the OB Street Fair is a year-round job, with 170 volunteers on the day to help run things. For them, June 22 will be a long, but fruitful day.
“We don’t get to enjoy the fair in the same way as everyone else,” she said. “But we still have a good time. It’s all there in the faces of the happy families walking up and down Newport Avenue.”
Parking at the OB Street Fair is always at a premium, but there are several options that may help to ease the situation. For bicyclists, the San Diego County Bicycle Coalition will provide a free bike valet area on Bacon Street at Newport Avenue.
Meanwhile, courtesy of Old Town Trolley, those with cars can drop off their vehicles and grab a free ride, to the fair from either the Sunrunner Lot at the corner of Pacific Highway and SeaWorld Drive or the lot near Robb Field at 2244 Bacon St. The trolley will run continuously from 9:30 a.m. until 9 p.m., dropping passengers off in the Artist’s Alley section of the fair.