By Margie M. Palmer
Adams Avenue Street Fair turns 35
Ninety musical acts will be featured at the 35th annual Adams Avenue Street Fair in Normal Heights, which will take place on Saturday, Sept. 24, and Sunday, Sept. 25.
Performers include The Beat Farmers with Dave Alvin, Sebadoh, Mrs. Magician, The B-Side Players, Jungle Fire and Sugaray Rayford Blues Band.
The family-friendly festival will include giant carnival rides, festival foods and more than 350 arts and crafts booths. Craft beer gardens and beer tastings will be limited to adults only.
The street fair, which began with a modest footprint, has grown into Southern California’s largest free, two-day music festival, said Scott Kessler, executive director of the sponsoring Adams Avenue Business Association.
“We built it one brick at a time over the years; we’d add one stage, then another,” he said. “I’ve been here since year eight, so since then, it was just a gradual growth. We really reached our maximum footprint about 20 years ago, so the actual size of the festival hasn’t grown but the attendance has grown to between 40,000 and 50,000 per day.”
Initially, the event was started to celebrate the initiation of revitalization efforts in Normal Heights; today, it’s not just a celebration of the community but a birthday party, of sorts.
The street fair also brings continued exposure to the Adams Avenue business district. Kessler estimates the event has $1 million economic impact to the neighborhood.
“The notoriety from the Adams Avenue Street Fair brings notoriety to the revitalization and growth of the business district all year around. Adams Avenue is associated with music festivals — that’s our brand, and there are a lot of local establishments, like Lestat’s and Java Joe’s, that host music all year around. There is always something for everyone,” he said.
Kessler estimates that this year’s street fair will net about $90,000, which will be funneled back into the community in a variety of ways, including but not limited to power-washing sidewalks and tree planting.
“It’s the biggest fundraiser we have and we plow every cent back into the community,” he said.
The 2016 Adams Avenue Street fair will be held from 10 a.m. — 10 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 24 and 10 a.m. — 7 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 25. Attendees of all ages will be able to enjoy 90 bands on multiple indoor and outdoor stages.
Beer connoisseurs can enjoy the Street Fair’s Craft Beer Taste, which will take place on Saturday from noon — 4 p.m. across from the Starbucks Stage located at Felton Street and Adams Avenue. Visitors to the Craft Beer Taste will have the opportunity to sample 12, 4-ounce tastes for $20. Vendors with unique offerings also will be set up back-to-back throughout the venue.
Kessler said he hopes to see old, and new faces at this year’s festival.
“I’d like to remind people that this is a great value and they have nothing to lose by coming out,” he said, adding that attendees are encouraged to take public transportation, ride-share or bike into the venue space due to limited parking.
“We’ll have a bike valet that will be located at the corner of Hawley and Adams,” he said. “I hope everyone comes out, checks out the entertainment and walks around to sample what they want. Outdoor street fairs are a great way to experience what San Diego is all about.”
—Margie M. Palmer is a San Diego-based freelance writer who has been racking up bylines in a myriad of news publications for the past 10 years. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.