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Rain or shine, Fiesta del Sol celebrates 40 years

ABOVE: Local band Atomic Groove kept visitors dancing at the 40th annual Fiesta Del Sol. the Solana Beach Chamber of Commerce worked with the Belly Up Tavern to book acts for this year’s event — other musical guests included Torrey Mercer, Pine Mountain Logs and Stripes and Lines. Photo by Lexy Brodt

SOLANA BEACH — After 40 years, Solana Beach’s annual Fiesta del Sol continues to flourish as the city’s most ambitious and longstanding event.

The family-friendly weekend festival — which ran May 18 and May 19 this year — was marred by a little more rain than usual on its second day. But in the words of Solana Beach Chamber of Commerce Chief Executive Officer Maryam Hintzen, “we’re still going to party, rain or shine.”

Fiesta is known for bringing a broad range of musical guests, food and vendors to the city’s small downtown area — all for free.

The city’s Chamber of Commerce spends about six months planning the event, and the local Belly Up Tavern provides the musical lineup.

As a result of their efforts, for just one weekend in late spring, the typically quiet beach city turns up the volume. Rides, a beer garden and a large stage are spread out in the old distillery parking lot.

Food trucks fill Fletcher Cove Park’s lot, and vendors pitch their tents across Plaza Street.

Artist Mac Hillenbrand set up a canopy to feature his artwork at the 40th annual Fiesta Del Sol in Solana Beach. Hillenbrand creates paintings with wood through an “old world” method called marquetry. Photo by Lexy Brodt

Saturday had crowds throughout the day, with visitors of all ages wandering the area with dogs and kids in tow. Many came out just to get down to Atomic Groove, breaking out their dance moves and even hula hoops for the local band, which often plays sets at the Belly Up.

But come Sunday morning, only the brave endured the rain. Attendees took coverage under awnings or umbrellas to hit the pancake breakfast hosted by the Solana Beach Fire Department, or watch the young rock stars of Rock Academy belt out a few classics.

This year, Fiesta drew about 200 vendors, selling and advertising everything from artwork and essential oils to cabinetry and outdoor landscaping.

Amidst the Sunday rain, artist Mac Hillenbrand jury-rigged a canopy in a parking lot off of Plaza Street, framing his display of various ocean-themed wood paintings coated in resin.

Hillenbrand said he usually sells his work at juried art shows, but wanted to come to Fiesta Del Sol because he grew up in the area and remembers attending it frequently in its earlier days.

“I have a nostalgia for it,” he said.

As many do — Fiesta is the longest-running event in the city, predating even the city’s formation in 1986. The event started small, but now?

“We’ve taken over half the city,” said Hintzen, from the Chamber of Commerce’s small Plaza Street office.

Hintzen approximates that Fiesta typically draws about 60,000 attendees over the course of the weekend event.

The festival is always bringing in new vendors and switching up entertainment offerings, but some booths are in it for the long haul.

1. Thousands gather every year to enjoy Solana Beach’s Fiesta Del Sol, a family-friendly event offering food, rides, a street fair and various musical acts. This year, the event celebrated its 40th anniversary — it has been running since before Solana Beach was founded. Photo by Lexy Brodt

Carol Childs, former President of the Solana Beach Civic and Historical Society, said the local organization has been setting up a display at Fiesta for as long as she can recall — “almost since it started,” she said.

The society set up a temporary display with dozens of pictures, a thorough timeline of the city from its days of old to its present, urbanized state.

“People are fascinated by these pictures,” Childs said, adding that many stop by to see what their neighborhoods once looked like.

In addition to the history, art and craftsmanship on display, attendees this year also got a peek of a brand new mural painted on the west wall of Saddle Bar. The Chamber of Commerce worked with artist Dustin Hull to get the piece ready and finished before the start of Fiesta Del Sol. The result? A beach-centric, pastel-colored tribute to the city — also featuring a shout out to the festival.

And with the party over for now, the Chamber of Commerce is already looking forward to next year. A Battle of the Bands will take place in fall, with 10 bands competing be able to perform on the festival’s main stage in 2020.