Local business owners unite for colorful neighborhood event
By Monica Garske | SDUN Reporter
South Park may be a smaller neighborhood, but on March 24 it will be buzzing with pedestrians, food and music at the community’s Spring Walkabout.
The South Park Business Group (SPBG) organizes the seasonal Walkabouts, which are held throughout the year from 6 – 10 p.m., and always on a Saturday.
The evening festival highlights the shops, restaurants and galleries bordered by Beech and Kalmia streets between 30th and Fern streets. More than 40 participating shops stay open late while restaurants offer special menu items and local musicians provide entertainment.
SPBG spokesperson Marsha Smelkinson said local merchants such as The Whistlestop Bar, Studio Maureen, Grant’s Marketplace and South Bark Dog Wash presented the first Walkabouts 10 years ago.
“For the past six or seven years, there have been four walkabouts [a] year, organized by the South Park Business Group and supported by a grant from the City of San Diego [Business Improvement District] Council,” Smelkinson said.
“The Walkabouts have been instrumental in building awareness for the business district of South Park and for the historic neighborhood. Today, there are over 50 small, locally owned businesses in South Park,” she said. “They work together to maintain the character of the neighborhood, promoting it to San Diego residents and visitors.”
Smelkinson said the upcoming Walkabout will have a wild west theme, complete with an outdoor Beech Street Buckaroo Barbecue. Local eateries such as Alchemy, Grant’s Marketplace and Hamilton’s Tavern will be serving barbecue-style dishes to keep with the theme. Local band Trio Gadjo is slated to play in front of Culinary Creative from 6:30 – 7:45 p.m.
Maureen Ceccarelli, SPBG member and owner of Studio Maureen & The Next Door Gallery, said she’ll be hosting an opening reception for her newest art show at her gallery from 6 – 9 p.m., featuring the works of Douglas C. Thompson.
She’ll also host a free art workshop where people can make collages and greeting cards.
Ceccarelli has lived and worked in South Park for over 30 years and has participated in the Walkabouts since they first began. She said the events have become an important part of local South Park culture and help bring people together.
“People like the feeling of community here [and] the cool vibe of our small neighborhood. South Park is a hidden treasure in San Diego and people are excited when they discover it. The Walkabout helps get the word out about our neighborhood. It’s been nice to see South Park shift into a hip, pedestrian- [and] family-friendly area,” Ceccarelli said.
Sophia Hall, owner of Make Good, a shop that sells art, clothing, jewelry and accessories made by local artisans, will also be participating in the Walkabout.
Hall will be selling hand-sewn wallets made by students from High Tech High School. Proceeds will go to Becky’s House as part of a charity project organized by the students. Hall said she’ll have a community art piece at her shop for visitors to contribute to; in the past, it has been a blank piece of wood on which participants painted. She said this year’s piece will be a surprise.
Although Hall’s business has only been in South Park for two years, she’s already participated in several Walkabouts and said she likens them to a “mini Mardi Gras” celebration.
“The Walkabout draws people out of their homes from all over San Diego. They’re able to intermingle, walk, talk and have a great time getting to know the South Park area and its local businesses. I think people really like the small neighborhood feel around here,” she said.
The South Park Walkabout is free to attend. A free trolley will circulate from Beech Street to Grape and Juniper Streets to bring people into the neighborhood. For more information, visit SouthParkScene.com.