ESCONDIDO — After three years, the Escondido Street Festival is trumpeting its return on Sunday, May 22, to the newly renovated downtown streets, boasting more live music than ever before.
The city’s annual spring street festival was last held in 2019. Before that, attendance numbers had been declining, so the Escondido Downtown Business Association wanted to spruce up the festival to make it more modern and appealing to visitors and locals. But the COVID-19 pandemic put those plans on hold for two years.
After receiving a $35,000 grant from the Escondido Community Foundation, the business association’s plan was to showcase the newly improved festival with much more live music and local, craft vendors.
Alex MacLachlan, president of the Downtown Business Association, said that the change in focus came from residents who answered surveys asking what they would like to see at the 33-year-old festival.
“We thought our most successful attempt to modernize our street fair would be to model the Adams Avenue Street Fair,” MacLachlan said.
Organized by the Adams Avenue Business Association, the Adams Avenue Street Fair takes place over two days in September every year in San Diego’s Normal Heights community. The fair is largely successful and touts itself as Southern California’s largest, free, two-day music festival.
With the grant, the Escondido Downtown Business Association was able to secure bands that they normally couldn’t afford. On top of that, visitors to the street festival will get to watch all of these bands for free, which includes acts like the Atomic 44s, The Sleepwalkers and Daring Greatly.
Members of the business association, which took over management of the street festival after subcontracting management services out to Kennedy and Associates in past years, have been visiting street fairs and farmers markets like the Oceanside Sunset Market to get a feel for what kind of vendors people want.
“When we see someone unique and exciting, we’ll ask them to be a vendor,” MacLachlan said. “We’ve taken a more proactive role in hand-selecting who we want to be at our event.”
Downtown businesses are also preparing for the street festival.
“Everybody is cleaning up their places to get ready,” said Louisa Magoon, owner of The Grand Tea Room and board member of the business association. “We’re encouraging businesses to stay open and visible on Sunday.”
The festival is set to kick off right after the first phase of the downtown improvement project wraps up. Already, several sidewalks have been widened and parking has been converted to diagonal spots to allow for more spaces and easier access. The final touch will be stringing up street lights before the festival.
The improvements will continue to move eastward down Grand Avenue in the next two phases of the project.
The street festival is scheduled from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday, May 22, on Grand Avenue between Escondido Boulevard and Juniper Street. More information at downtownescondido.com.