Stern Grove

Stern Grove’s 82nd Annual Free Summer Concert Series Kicks Off on June 16

By Jonathan Farrell

The annual outdoor music festival series at Sigmond Stern Grove begins on June 16 and will continue every Sunday for 10 weeks. This year marks the 82nd season of free concerts for San Francisco residents and visitors.

Stern Grove is nestled in a rustic setting among eucalyptus and pine trees, at the corner of 19th Avenue and Sloat Boulevard in the City’s Parkside District. 

Organizers strive for diversity. Music lovers find a variety of styles each week. A mix of rock, hip-hop, jazz, folk, classical, funk and blues combine to offer an experience for many musical tastes.

Crowds are expected to number 10,000 a week. This year’s lineup starts with the Grammy Award-winning jazz-fusion, rap group Digable Planets, followed a week later by another Grammy Award-winning band, Los Van Van, playing Cuban-inspired dance music. 

Other highlights include the San Francisco Symphony, reggae band Toots and the Maytals, a performance by the San Francisco Ballet, the punk-rock band the Phsychedelic Furs and many others.

In addition to the music, there will be free yoga classes, food trucks will be available and there will be special classes for children, including instrument exploration, a dance workshop and printmaking.

sunseaerial-stern-grove-wnp.jpg

This arial photograph, circa 1950, shows the emergence of the western neighborhoods. To the far left is McCoppin Square, located at 22nd Avenue and Taraval Street. Stern Grove is visible in the center of the photograph, with Larsen Park attached at 19th Avenue. Sloat Boulevard is to the right of Stern Grove. To the far right is construction that would become Lowell High School and the Stonestown Galleria, which was constructed in 1952. Photo courtesy of a private collector/Western Neighborhoods Project.

Stern Grove has a long history in San Francisco. Named after her husband Sigmund as a memorial to him by his widow, Rosalie Stern. Stern Grove has been a gathering spot even before it was officially established in the 1930s. 

According to local historian Lorri Ungaretti and the City of San Francisco Museum, the grove has always been a coveted location. With more than 60 acres of trees and a bucolic meadow, it has always been a gathering spot. Years before the Gold Rush, the land belonged to the Greene family of Maine, who made the trek out west and obtained the land as part of a homestead. 

Before the City’s expansion west, the grove was rustic and wild, ideal for hunting duck and rabbit and for livestock to roam. To some it was seen as empty land – part of the “Outside Lands,” away from the City. 

The Greene family had to struggle to keep the land as various disputes erupted. Over time, as Gold Rush fever took hold, a roadhouse called the “Trocadero” was built, along with cabins and other amenities, to host parties and guests. Millionaires like Charles Hooper and Alfred Spreckels were frequent visitors. 

When Prohibition took hold, the Greenes closed the Trocadero and sold the property to Rosalie Stern. It was Rosalie, with her important connections and tireless efforts, who made Stern Grove what visitors know today. She envisioned the grove as an ideal place for concerts. 

A distinctive aspect of the festival’s programming, in addition to spotlighting familiar classics and legends, is to introduce local up-and-coming artists and emerging talents from around the globe to a broad audience.

The admission-free concerts begin at 2 p.m. Some shows have pre-performance and there is an admission charge to talks, benefit parties and gatherings. Details are on the website. 

Admittance is on a first-come, first-served basis No tickets are required. Patrons are welcome to bring their own food and beverages. 

For more information about the Stern Grove Summer Festival, visit  http://www.sterngrove.org or call (415) 252-6252.

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