Escondido’s Grand Avenue Festival, aka Escondido Street Faire, held Sunday, Oct. 18 might be 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 flocked to Grand Avenue and block after block of 500 vendors, food and music from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Sunday. Escondido’s first street faire was 1988. This year the festival spanned 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 ably managed by Kennedy & Associates Street Faire Consultants.
Kennedy & Associates started 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 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. “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 began before dawn, around 5:30 a.m. with the festival running from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. The Escondido Chamber of Commerce and Downtown Business Association sponsored 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 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 brought a highly eclectic and diverse group of vendors and folks out to the grand bazaar and road show.
Martha Mendoza and Mario Morales offered Indian imported clothing under Elena’s Fashion banner. Sabrina Reid came over from Camp Run-A-Mutt in San Marcos to let people know about its Halloween Spooktacular for canines to be held at 910 Armorlite Drive on Oct. 25. Dave and Aida Matheny came down from Fallbrook to cater the street with sausage from Matheny’s Wagon Works.
The party may have ended for this year’s faire, but have no fear, the next one already is in the works, planned for May 15, 2016.
For those looking around for more of the same, and then some, Kennedy & Associates has it all under control. Upcoming North County faires include:
- Carlsbad Street Faire, November 1
- Encinitas Fall Festival, November 22
- 2016 Spring schedule:
- San Marcos Grand Spring Festival, April 10
- Fallbrook Avocado Festival, April 17
- Encinitas Street Faire, April 23-24
- Carlsbad Street Faire, May 1
- Escondido Grand Avenue Festival, May 15
- Vista Strawberry Festival, May 29
- Cardiff Dog Days of Summer, August 13
- Carlsbad Art in the Village, August 14.