Escondido’s Grand Avenue Festival, aka Escondido Street Faire, that returns Sunday, May 15 might be only the second-largest single-day festival in California, but as they used to say in the old Avis rent-a-car commercials, they try harder.
An estimated 30,000 to 40,000 people will flock to Grand Avenue and block after block of 500 vendors, food and music from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m..
Escondido’s first street faire was 1988. This year the festival once again with feeling spans downtown’s main street from Centre City Parkway to Ivy Street.
“I’ve been coming here for nine years and this is a really good festival,” said a vendor from Riverside who identified himself only as “Casey, the Beanie Guy, everybody knows who I am,” adding, “It is very well organized.”
Casey rides the festival circuit with his hats, sports uniforms and what-nots, so he ought to know. Monday it’s off to the Farmers Market at Welk Village for his many, and colorful, wares. Then, it’s Chino Hills for a church bash and later, a Chula Vista engagement.
Next month, Casey, along with a lot of the other vendors, is off to the Carlsbad Street Faire, the largest single-day Festival in California. Both Carlsbad and Escondido’s festivals, along with the likes of the Vista Strawberry Festival and Fallbrook Avocado Festival — 14 North County San Diego festivals in all — are managed ably by Kennedy & Associates Street Faire Consultants.
Kennedy & Associates began with former Marine Keith Kennedy at Carlsbad in 1973 and has grown in size ever since. Kennedy started out as the vendor chairman for the Carlsbad Chamber of Commerce as it organized its street fair. “After a while, the fair just took on a life of its own,” he said at age 86 in 2010. “it’s just unreal.”
These days, Brian Roth, Kennedy’s son-in-law, heads the operation. He was large and in charge last year with yellow vest and communication devices in tow as he supervised the grand fair at the corner of Grand Avenue and Broadway, ably assisted by Rick Bauer, Escondido site manager.
“We had a great day today although attendance was a bit down due to uncertainty about the weather,” Roth said during the fall version of the fair(e).
“People weren’t sure if it was going to rain or not. Still, it’s been a very nice day. ” Added Bauer: “This is a fun event.”
The Escondido faire — that’s correct, all Kennedy events feature the trademark “e” at the end of fair — is considered a great venue, according to Roth because it features lots of room for vendors to get in and out of the street.
Set-up begins before dawn, around 5:30 a.m. The Escondido Chamber of Commerce and Downtown Business Association sponsor the event, as per usual.
“This is a business but it’s fun,” Roth said, noting how his father-in-law faire founder focused on community and enjoyment rather than mere profits, although the business makes a little money, too, and who can quibble with that given the grand old experience.
Those fun faire words were echoed last fall by vendors along with those many enthusiasts walking the street, block after block, with 500 booths of anything one could imagine this side of the San Diego County Fair.
“It’s nice to come down here and walk around,” said retired magnetic arts business owner Arthur Devine, a 45 year resident of Escondido, adding with a laugh, “seems like everybody here is a carpetbagger.”
Devine said he enjoyed people watching while offering some off-the-cuff advice. “Happiness is not getting the newest or latest thing, but enjoying what you already have,” he said before demonstrating his well-worn flip phone to punctuate the point.
Greg Dunn, another retiree from nearby Old Town Escondido, strolled along Grand Avenue’s double-yellow stripes, reveling in the freedom to walk on the street rather than dodge traffic crossing it. His dog Rocky accompanied him.
“We like to walk around here at 5 p.m. most of the time, so today is a little different,” Dunn said. “Rocky likes it because he doesn’t get to walk in the middle of the road usually.”
Meanwhile, Chris Winkler sauntered by with a group and his pet of a different color, and size, a 10-year-old parakeet named Chloe posing for photo opps just beyond James Stone’s many beautiful, handblown glass vases and objects. Stone has a studio and gallery along with partner Carol Rodgers featuring hot glass and mixed media at 1285 Simpson Way in industrial Escondido.
“We were at the Bernardo Winery for 15 years before moving to Escondido last year, ” Stone said. “We’ve got the small stuff here today. The big stuff is in the gallery.”
One of Stone’s claims to fame is his employment of several people out of local rehab programs, giving “people who don’t fit in anyplace else” a chance to get back on their feet while helping bring out the best in glass and artistic, as well as utilitarian objects.
“Glassmaking has been around for 6,000 years,” said Stone, who studied with the well-known, recently retired, Del Dios glassmaker Gary Cohen. “People don’t realize that Abraham was a glassmaker.”
Almost needless to say, an event of this size brings a highly eclectic and diverse group of vendors and folks out to the grand bazaar and road show.
Martha Mendoza and Mario Morales was expected to feature Indian imported clothing under Elena’s Fashion banner. Sabrina Reid should be coming over from Camp Run-A-Mutt in San Marcos to let people know about its Halloween Spooktacular at 910 Armorlite Drive this fall. Dave and Aida Matheny will come on down from Fallbrook to cater the street with sausage from Matheny’s Wagon Works.
Will you be there? Or be square?
For those looking around for more of the same, and then some, Kennedy & Associates has it all under control. Upcoming North County fair(e)s include:
Vista Strawberry Festival, May 29
Cardiff Dog Days of Summer, August 1
Carlsbad Art in the Village, August 14.