Outdoor summer serenade

B.J. Coleman | Uptown News 

Trolley Barn Park hosts ‘Summer in the Park’ concert series to benefit community

San Diego’s vibrant inland communities often face a summertime quandary — how to attract residents to stay closer to home rather than heading westward for an evening cool-down at the beaches.

For years, University Heights has responded to this dilemma with an Uptown attitude that’s as cool as the drop in temperature. It’s about being local, connecting with friends, getting acquainted with not-yet-met neighbors and extending mutual support among community groups and businesses.

San Diegans enjoy University Heights’ Trolley Barn Concert Series on a Friday evening. (Photo by B.J. Coleman)

San Diegans enjoy University Heights’ Trolley Barn Concert Series on a Friday evening. (Photo by B.J. Coleman)

Now well into its second decade, this year’s “Summer in the Park” concert series invited locals to spend Friday nights chilling with family members and friends in Trolley Barn Park, located at Adams Avenue and Florida Street.

These free summer concerts featured bands playing music with wide intergenerational appeal, including blues, folk, zydeco, boogie, swing, indie and old-school rock. The five-week concert series  encourages attendees to bring picnic gear and leashed dogs, while families were invited to entertain their children on the playground equipment near the band stage. Food trucks were commonly sighted as well. Vendors hosting tables along the Adams Avenue side of the park featured distinctive items and personal services appealing to Uptown tastes. Local community service groups, such as The American Legion’s San Diego Post 6, also hosted tables.

The Mrs. Frostie truck had customers lined up for hand-dipped soft serve ice cream treats. Other businesses offering wares at the events have included the sensitive-skin-friendly, cold-pressed luxury soaps of Vibrant Soap, Addison’s Candies (handing out single candy samples of brittles or caramels) and Organic Farm Boxes. Handcrafted steampunk-themed jewelry from Perpetual Motions Creations was also for sale.

Primary sponsors of “Summer in the Park” were the University Heights Community Development Corporation (UHCDC), the San Diego County Enhancement Program, the San Diego Park and Recreation Department and the University Heights Recreation Council. During its first three years, the summer event was organized as a street fair. The event was repurposed 18 years ago as a concert series in Trolley Barn Park, so as to yield greater benefits to local businesses and restaurants.

Informal observations indicate success in that effort, with outside visitors coming into the community and area restaurants enjoying more diners before and after each concert. Moreover, organizers report that the crowd grows throughout the series and that exposure and word-of-mouth endorsements improve attendance yearly.

Ernie Bonn is event coordinator for the UHCDC, and she has been a University Heights resident since 1974.

“This is one of the best things we have done for this community,” she said.

Each Friday concert cost about $2,000 to put on, and the UHCDC seeks more donors contributing to the annual series. Co-sponsors from the community included Tony Azar, Ross Lopez and Mark Ballam, Roxanne Govari and the Pemberley Realty team, Mary Anne Stevens and Queen Bee’s Art & Cultural Center.

Trolley Barn Park has been a major historical site in University Heights. Prior to 1907, the trolley line ended where the park is now located. Extension of the trolley line along Adams Avenue after that led to expansion of University Heights and the Adams Avenue business corridor.

The UHCDC, dating its inception to 1985, takes as its mission enhancing and promoting residential and commercial entities within University Heights, which was officially recognized as an area within San Diego on Aug. 6, 1888. In partnership with the University Heights Community Association, the organization endeavors to preserve the integrity and history of immediate and adjacent neighborhoods within University Heights, with an eye toward future neighborhood planning, securing and providing safe, aesthetic environments for residents, and fostering business retention and community involvement in the area.

The UHCDC holds monthly meetings open to the public. The group’s next big fundraising event will be October’s Taste of University Heights, featuring small-plate samplers from local eateries.

For more information about the UHCDC, visit

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