The Sand City West End Celebration turns 21 this weekend. Hard to believe, I know. For those of us who have supported this very special, locally produced, free, music, arts and community focused street fair from the start, it has become one of the events of the year where people go out in public to embrace the diverse visual arts community by buying their wares and seeing and being seen on the streets of good old Sandy Town. There’s music and dancing in the streets, food, wine, beer, new murals joining the ranks of older ones that have become a visual signature for this small strip of town in the across the highway from the beach.
While still considered a place where you get your cars worked, buy paint, shop for home improvement products, and chat with designers and artisans, Sand City has also become something of an art colony. Originally marketed as our own little New York-style SoHo neighborhood, Sand City’s West End has found its own colorful and unique personality. If you don’t go there much, be sure to come to this event as there is something for everyone. The theme for this year’s event is Celebrating Art and Community.
“The theme we chose this year is exactly what the festival is all about, all about community and celebrating the arts,” said event producer Steve Vagnini. “That sums up everything West End is about and that’s what we do every year, celebrating the community. People who come to the West End Celebration come for the atmosphere. It’s cool and it’s where people who love the arts and support artists and musicians come together. Additionally, all participating nonprofits help many facets of our community. We are all here together for one weekend of the year. Unlike the Car Week the region has just hosted for people from all over the world, the West End celebration is the community and the fiber of who we are.
Top musical acts appear on three stages spread around the event footprint which engages multiple blocks centered around the indie stage at the intersection of Ortiz Avenue and Hickory Street. Considered the main stage, the Independent is so called because of its proximity to the Independent apartment building and its plaza adorned with public sculptures. Redwood Avenues, one block from Ortiz Avenue, has a stage at each end, the Redwood Stage at the north end, and the Hear & Now Stage at the south. On Saturday, the event runs from 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and on Sunday from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m.
Headlining Independent Stage Saturday is Maria Muldar, one of the great vocal artists to emerge from New York’s folk music revival scene of the early to mid-60s in Greenwich Village. She is truly an American treasure, best known for the 70s pop music hit “Midnight at the Oasis”, although at the very essence of her career she is known as a respected performer of nearly every style of music. American roots music, including blues, early jazz, gospel, folk, country and New Orleans R&B.
Before her big solo career with the performance of “Midnight at the Oasis”, she played in the Even Dozen Jug Band and the Jim Kweskin Jug Band, where she met her husband Geoff Muldaur. They then separated to perform as a duo, and when the marriage broke up, she went solo. Later in her career, she collaborated with artists like the Jerry Garcia Band, bluegrass icon Peter Rowan and New Orleans piano legend Dr. John. She received a Grammy Award nomination for Best Traditional Blues Album for her “Richland Woman Blues.” She has released 31 albums and appeared on the records of many other artists. It will be a delightful way to end the day on the main stage; his set starts at 4 p.m. Also appearing that day are local jazz saxophonist and pianist Gary Meek and his band; singer/songwriter Adrea Castiano; 15-year-old Pacific Grove rising singer and songwriter Katherine Lavin and the day’s 11 a.m. opener is the cream of the traditional Guitars Not Guns organization of the group of young performers.
The Redwood Stage features Central Coast bands rocking out. Meez831 headlines at 4:30 p.m., with Jon Griffin & The Lightfighters, Wolf Jett and Next Exit filling out the day’s performance from 12:30 p.m. The Hear & Now stage features young alternative artists, topped by DJ Razzvio at 4pm, with Sea.LVL, Reverend Stephan Sams & The Savages, Merely Amuse and Morticai opening the stage at noon.
The headliner of the Independent Stage at 4 p.m. on Sunday is The Sun Kings, a Bay Area-based Beatles cover band that has become nationally known as one of the best in a crowded field. of Beatles repertoire groups. You’ll hear Beatles songs from every year of their relatively short recording career. Bandleader Drew Harrison is also a well-known John Lennon stylist, presenting a show called “In the Spirit of Lennon”. You will definitely want to participate in this action. Also on the bill, highly talented singer-songwriter Cindy Alexander, born and raised in Los Angeles, and her band, Matt Masih, and Dirty Cello kick things off at noon.
The Redwood Stage Sunday has a really solid lineup of local talent. The headliner is Wrockinfoose at 4 p.m., with Hayley Jane, Chuck Brewer Band and The B-Keepers kicking off at noon. At Hear & Now, find multi-talented musician, composer and visual artist DJ Hanif Wondir at 4 p.m., with The Bassment, Palo Santo, Meredith McHenry and Holysea in support from noon. For all exact times and more band information, please visit the event website at www.westendcelebration.com.
The West End celebration has seen many changes in its 21-year history. In its early years, the focus was on Sand City artists who kept working studios within the city limits, and there was a desire to build the city’s reputation as a place for artistic creation. Well, this aspect has been very successful, attracting a large number of artists to the region to settle in town. Most if not all of these studios will be open to the public to view and develop relationships with the artists through purchases and return visits at other times of the year.
Additionally, Vagnini has organized over 150 artists, craftsmen and various other vendors who line the streets to sell their creations. Many are local Monterey County artisans, but there is also a great selection of other artists from outside the region. Vagnini said the jury selection process required the seller to sell only original creations, which could vary from paintings, sculptures, photographs, jewelry, clothing, home and garden ornaments, to many other types of art. .
Before the weekend for the second year takes place the WE wall art festival. Twelve international mural artists selected by a jury come to Sand City to collaborate on six walls in the West End District. The artwork will live on as permanent pieces that will create an outdoor gallery all year round. During the festival there will be two large murals still in progress, plus an experiential street mural on the festival grounds, a very cool 3D drawing on the street itself and festival goers are invited to engage and take pictures with it.
No street fair is complete without food and drink. There will be 15 local food vendors, three craft beer vendors (Post No Bills at the Independent, English Ales and Other Brothers Brewery which will be located adjacent to the Redwood Stage). El Jefe Nitro Margaritas and a wine tent will provide a variety of delicacies at the party. Proceeds from the wine tasting tent hosted by Galante Vineyards and Dawn’s Dream will benefit the Monterey County chapter of Guitars Not Guns. More than 25 non-profit organizations will be represented this year with information booths. Raffle tickets will be on sale at the Town’s information tent for a chance to win an electric guitar signed by Dweezil Zappa.
In addition to parking in available spaces on the streets of Sand City, attendees can park at the Edgewater Mall and take the shuttle that connects the Lucky Store in the center to the other side of town at Sweet Elena’s Cafe & Bakery. People can take the shuttle which arrives every 15 minutes at every stop along this route. The festival footprint is fenced and security is stationed at the entrances to watch incoming and outgoing traffic, and there are cement barricades around the ends of the streets to keep out wandering drivers. Just step out and see for yourself if you don’t already know what a great time this event is, and admission is free!
I just have to scream for the Saturday night concert with Forrest Day at the Urban Lounge. The hugely popular Bay Area rocker calls Monterey/Big Sur home away from home, and he has a huge following here. He has been absent from the scene since before the pandemic hit, mainly because he was trapped in the Philippines until recently with its COVID lockdown. The show starts at 8:30 p.m., tickets are $22, available in advance at www.forrestday.com, click on the event listing or at the door.