Jeremy Ogul | Contributing Editor
Thirty years ago this summer, the weathered, wooden Hillcrest sign was taken down to be refurbished. When the neighborhood got together to celebrate the return of the sign — complete with new neon lights — Cityfest was born.
Now a huge daylong street fair, Cityfest returns on Sunday, Aug. 10, extending its hours from noon to 11 p.m. The Hillcrest Business Association, which organizes the event, anticipates a crowd of more than 150,000 people to join the party this year.
“Hillcrest has all sorts of things that are great about urban life: food, culture, nightlife,” said Benjamin Nicholls, the HBA’s interim executive director. “Cityfest is a celebration of all those things.”
With its main stage under the Hillcrest sign at University and Fifth avenues, Cityfest covers six blocks. This year’s event features a water slide, a play zone for kids, carnival rides, a foster animal petting zoo, a spacious beer garden for the adults, a drag queen dunk tank, a food court and more than 250 arts and crafts vendors selling everything from decorative pillows to handmade soaps.
One special feature of this year’s event is a space for emerging artists to create their work in front of an audience. Also, in honor Cityfest’s 30th birthday, Babycakes will present a larger-than-life birthday cake, Nicholls said. A free cupcake will be given to the first 300 people who show up for the cake’s unveiling, which will take place at 8 p.m. at the main stage.
As one of the longest-running and largest street fairs in San Diego, Cityfest is the inspiration for most other street fairs in the city, Nicholls said. The size and scope of this year’s celebration is thanks in part to a large sponsorship by Scripps Health.
The Merrow is sponsoring a stage that will feature musical performances by live bands and DJs throughout the afternoon and evening. The lineup includes bands playing reggae, ska, folk, world, ’80s covers, indie rock and electronic dance music. Beginning at 6 p.m., electronic dance DJs Will Z, John Joseph, Taj and Nikno will take over the stage for a big after-dark dance party.
More than just a party, Cityfest also helps raise funds to maintain the neighborhood. Organizers expect to raise about $40,000 for neighborhood cleanup and beautification projects, Nicholls said.
Free parking will be available at the Hillcrest DMV, which has 158 spaces, and the free Hillcrest Trolley will shuttle riders from paid parking lots around Hillcrest to the site of the event. For more information on parking, visit parkhillcrest.com. Secured bicycle parking and bike valet will also be available. To learn more about Cityfest, visit hillcrestcityfest.com or call 619-299-3330.