By Ken Williams | Editor
Adams Avenue Street Fair keeps getting bigger and better
Thirty-four years ago, the inaugural Adams Avenue Street Fair started off rather modestly, featuring a local band comprised of moonlighting police officers. In 2015, the popular event has grown into Southern California’s largest free, two-day music festival and features 110 acts.
Not only that, the Street Fair now showcases craft beer, the sudsy refreshment San Diego is known for around the globe. But this year, for the first time, wine tasting joins the lineup as another example of a popular pastime in America’s Finest City.
“We have new restaurants and businesses on Adams Avenue to showcase along with a wine-tasting area to complement our craft beer tasting,” said Scott Kessler, executive director of Adams Avenue Business Association (AABA), which presents the Street Fair.
Weather permitting, organizers expect 100,000 people to attend the two-day event on Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 26 and 27.
Musical headliners included this year, according to Kessler:
—Rugburns: acoustic rock
—Former Stray Cat band member Lee Rocker: rockabilly
—The Wailing Souls: reggae
—HoneyHoney: jazzy indie rock
—Kid Ramos and the 44s: blues roots rock
—Stranger: reggae roots rock and jazz
—Steve Poltz: singer/songwriter
Between the music, the beer and the wine, those who crave munchies can purchase food from dozens of vendors. There will be “all kinds of festival food including: barbecue, sausage, vegetarian, Asian, Greek, Ethiopian, Mexican, pizza and all sorts of desserts like shaved ice, ice cream, cheesecake in a cup, homemade root beer, funnel cake,” Kessler said.
“The Adams Street Fair has attractions for every age group and interest; from carnival rides to beer gardens, musical performances to people watching, alternative shopping and dining,” Kessler said.
The Street Fair is one of the main money-making ventures for the Adams Avenue Business Association (AABA) — a nonprofit corporation that formed in the early 1980s for the purpose of revitalizing and marketing the Adams Avenue business corridor — and Kessler puts it into perspective: “The Street Fair accounts for approximately 50 percent of the AABA’s annual income.”
Surprisingly, the beer gardens and the beer tasting aren’t the chief revenue sources from the Street Fair.
“The craft beer gardens are just one of the featured and diverse offerings the Street Fair provides,” Kessler said. “The beer sales account for only 10 percent of the event’s income stream.”
Tourism also helps boost attendance. “The Street Fair draws about half its audience from the city of San Diego, 25 percent from the county and 25 percent from outside the county,” he said.
From its modest start, the Street Fair has become a cultural institution in Uptown. Kessler attributes that success to hard work.
“It has been staffed by a core group of community members that take great pride in their work while being managed by professional economic development staff from the Adams Avenue Business Association,” he said.
Several years ago, the AABA introduced a phone app to promote their business members and events.
“The phone app has been operable for the past 2.5 years and features the AABA’s special events as well as our local business directory. The purpose of the app is to make information more easily accessible,” Kessler said.
The Street Fair started in 1981 at the corner of School and Mansfield streets. In 2015, the Street Fair will take over Adams Avenue Park, several parking lots and seven blocks along Adams Avenue between 32nd and 35th streets.
As the Bob Dylan song says, “The times they are a-changin.’”
—Ken Williams is editor of Uptown News and Mission Valley News and can be reached at email@example.com or at 619-961-1952. Follow him on Twitter at @KenSanDiego, Instagram at @KenSD or Facebook at KenWilliamsSanDiego.