By Becky Lee
The eighth annual Ocean Beach Music and Arts Festival took place on Oct. 11, against the rare backdrop of a sunny day in the Sunset District.
The Outer Noriega Merchants Association ran the first version of the event in 2009 along a single block. In the past eight years, it has expanded across three blocks, shutting down Noriega Street between 44th and 47th avenues. The event is billed as “a celebration of life on the edge of the western world.” This year’s festival featured two stages of live music, food trucks and a pop-up beer garden.
A broad range of pop-up shops ensured there was something for everyone, from Bomb Waves’ homemade surf ponchos to Fog Town Print Company’s whimsical art. Kids of all ages roamed around a pumpkin patch and a sidewalk chalk station. Dogs were not only welcome, but catered to by a “canine comfort” stand, complete with treats and water bowls.
Music stages were placed at both ends of the festival. Sets alternated between a variety of genres – The Inciters, an 11-piece northern soul band was followed by SF-based La Gente and its blend of Caribbean rhythms and experimental hip-hop.
For many festivals, a rise in attendance often means a rise in corporate sponsors. Organizers of the Ocean Beach Music and Arts Festival have made a concerted effort to keep things local, low-key and family friendly.
Sanford Johnson is the owner of the Sunset Pet Supply Shop and one of the original organizers of the event. Johnson says he’s “happy to see it’s maintained its initial intention” to reflect the character of the Outer Sunset neighborhood and champion small vendors.
The core team of organizers includes the owners of other Noriega Street mainstays, including Greg Medow of Flanahan’s Pub, Hilary Passman of Devil’s Teeth Baking Company, Cindy Hayward-Baryza of The Pizza Place on Noriega and Dmitri Vardakastanis of Noriega Produce. The SF Board of Supervisors District 4 representative, Gordon Mar, as well as the People of Parkside Sunset (POPS), have also been supportive of the event as it has grown.
The Outer Sunset is known for its small town feel and community ownership remains a key organizing principle.
“When you ask people if they’re going to the festival, I want them to say, ‘Of course we’re going, that’s our fair,’” Johnson said.
Most of the vendors live or work in the neighborhood – often both. Celine Germain, a local massage therapist, ran a pop-up at the festival for her ocean-inspired jewelry business, Tide and Tied. Germain and her husband, both surfers, originally moved to the Sunset to be closer to the beach.
“You either commute for surf or commute for work,” she said. “I really like the quiet energy. There’s a lot going on, but it’s not overwhelming.”
They called the Sunset an “introvert’s paradise,” a nod to the relative peace and quiet in the neighborhood. It is not unusual to be able to hear the sound of waves crashing from a few blocks away and the area remains mainly residential.
Another vendor, Deborah Osorio of clothing brand Anima Fera, was born and raised in San Francisco. Her family has owned Brother’s Mini Market on the corner of Noriega and 46th for more than 20 years. Anima Fera, which she launched in 2017, is about “being fierce, uncensored, being yourself,” and features beanies, T-shirts and crewneck sweatshirts.
Liam, a newcomer to the neighborhood, manned the Sunset Pet Supply stand. He moved to the Sunset four months ago and recently started working at the store.
“I’m from a small town in Massachusetts. I love having locally owned businesses nearby and living in a place where the deli guy knows my name,” he said.
As evening came, groups of people lingered on street corners while stages and tents were dismantled. Slowly, people who lived nearby began to walk home, while others started their journeys back to other corners of the City.
With this year’s festival drawing sizable crowds, the organizers demonstrated that a surge in attendance does not require putting corporations before community. The event was able to maintain a local feel while including more people in the experience.
As Johnson explained, “The Sunset is changing so much. We want people who are new to the community to feel welcome, but to know there’s already a ‘there’ there. We’ve been doing this for a while. You can put away your umbrella and get out your hoodies.”
For more information, visit the Ocean Beach Music and Arts Festival Facebook page.
Categories: Ocean Beach Music and Arts Festival