Count-Down to the 30th Annual OB Street Fair

by on June 2, 2009 · 29 comments

in Environment, Health, Ocean Beach, Organizing, San Diego

The OB Rag will be reporting on this years’ Ocean Beach Street Fair with a team of seven correspondents and photographers (& maybe more!). We hope to provide in depth coverage of the many different events that occur during the day, along with tons of photography. This will be our first attempt at collective reporting, so it should be….interesting. Here’s our first report:

The 30th Annual Ocean Beach Street Fair and Chili Cook-Off Festival is just a few weeks away (Saturday, June 27th). I attended a working meeting at the OB Main Street Assn offices this week, and can report that community volunteers are already hard at work to insure that this year’s event is the best ever. There will be a few new wrinkles for this year’s Fair, but, for the most part, the group seems intent on building on past years’ successes. Past events have drawn over 70,000 visitors to OB. The Fair has a reputation for being well-run, user friendly and a lot of fun for everyone.

The biggest news about this years’ event is that all the bands will be from Ocean Beach. Stage manager Chuck Schiele says that booking the bands required for the four stages he runs was a snap. With all the talent in OB, he says they could have easily filled two more stages. (For the band line up go here.)

Schiele is also producing a CD featuring music about OB performed by community musicians. There will be a release party for the Waves: the Sound of Ocean Beach, Volume 1 at the Masonic Temple later this month—watch these pages for more info. The CD will be on sale at the Street Fair, and OBRag blogger Dave Gilbert will be posting an advance review in the near future. Proceeds will be used to help fund the annual 4th of July Fireworks at the OB Pier. And, oh yeah,  there is some kind of surprise planned for this years’ fireworks display.  It’s officially a secret, so you’ll just have to go and find out.

This years’ Chili Cookoff promises to be better than ever. As of June 1st, 21 of the 24 slots for competitors have been filled. If you have been to this particular Chili Cookoff before, the best advice is to come early (before noon) because many of the participants are sold out by 2pm or so. Tickets for tastings will be on sale starting at 10am; booths will be open by 11am.

The Wonderland Play area, located adjacent to US Bank, will feature pony rides, jump tents and lots of other fun things aimed at the younger set. (Yes, there are new rides this year!) Those who are young at heart but not so vertically challenged and still seeking thrills are invited to join the fun at the OB Fun Zone, located in the parking next to Starbucks. Here’s a map of where things will be located.

Artists Alley is like a fair within the fair, featuring its own stage (next to Union bank), beer garden, local art, and an amazing array of hand crafted items. Featured local artisans will include: Brita Ferm, Todd Cooper, Dan Drea, Penny Sitko, Linda Madden and Danielle Eder.

Another highlight of the Street Fair is the annual mural, an artistic tradition established by the late artist/activist Rich James in 1999 as a way to beautify and instill a sense of pride in the community. I happened to get a sneak peak at the design for this years’ mural. It really cool, with lots of bits of local history (and legend, in the case of OB Spaceman) scattered throughout its 196 panels.

For the past few years OB Surf and Skate has hosted a skate jam, with skate board ramps set up for open skating (starting at 10am) and a contest (2pm). Riders over 18 are required to wear a helmet, all skaters are required to sign a release form, and contest entries cost $5.

Bringing in 70,000 of our closest friends and neighbors in for a little ol’ street party is no small undertaking. One of the best ways to get here that day will be on the free trolleys running every half hour from Sea World Drive at Pacific Highway and continuously from the entrance to Robb Field. The Old Town Trolley drivers are reported to be very “colorful”, with spontaneous “histories” and “guided tours”, so you can consider the transportation to the Fair as part of the fun.

The OB Street Fair & Chili Cook-off Festival is still on the hunt for a few good volunteers to work the day of the event, especially in the morning hours. There are a just a few vendors booth left—they are very close to being sold out.

{ 29 comments… read them below or add one }

Dave Gilbert June 2, 2009 at 12:59 pm

Cool Doug!

I look forward to it every year but think that this year’s 30th anniversary is gonna be even more fun, I can’t wait! XD \m/


bodysurferbob June 2, 2009 at 8:44 pm

sweet ;)


jon June 3, 2009 at 8:32 am

Oh man! I can’t wait. There’s nothing like having 20 different cups of chili for breakfast, washing it down with a pint of cold beer, listening to reggae/rock/whatever by the pier, then running home for some pepto bismol. lol!


mr fresh June 3, 2009 at 8:40 am

actually some of that chili really sucked last year. i’m no “purist” on chili, but it should at least be edible. you can tell the ones that are less than good by the shorter lines.


jon June 3, 2009 at 12:02 pm

I actually agree with you mr fresh. Last year was way under par compared to previous cook-offs. Hopefully the 30th annual will bring out the big guns! Bring yer rolaids!


Shawn Conrad June 4, 2009 at 12:49 pm

My La Jolla Seal Chili is most likely going to take it this year. Can anyone give me a hand late Saturday night? B.Y.O.C. (Bring Your Own Club).


jon June 4, 2009 at 12:59 pm

I dunno Shawn…sounds like your chili will have more “bark” than bite.


Pat June 4, 2009 at 2:49 pm

Wow thirty years !
Sometimes it seems like it was just yesterday we were designing the first t-shirt.
Thats how we raised the money for the first OB fireworks festival.
The sale of t-shirts and donations from merchants and residents.
It’s amazing it became such a tradition with a chili cook-off, street-fair, and all the goings on.
My brother Rich would be pleased the community mural is still happining.
Thanks to all those who kept the tradition alive !


Frank Gormlie June 4, 2009 at 3:24 pm

Pat – sounds like it’s time to do that story! Do you want to write it or shall we?


Pat June 5, 2009 at 6:39 am

Frank – a story would be great.Not sure if I would have time for a while.
I’ll try think who else would be good to Interview.
My recollection sometimes is a little vague.
My brothers would most likely remember more since they were involved more with the organization of the event.
I’ll talk to them and let them know. It,s cool you guys are covering the 30th annual!


Mike James June 11, 2009 at 12:19 pm

Hi Frank,

Just a little note about the beginning of the Fireworks Festival/Street Fair.

The fireworks off the Ocean Beach Pier were once a fixture of the Fourth of July in the early to mid seventies, but had been discontinued.

As president of the Ocean Beach Merchants Association in 1980, I mentioned at a meeting that it would be great to bring back the fireworks. My brother Ron being a visionary ran with it. He had the James Gang and John Small, owner of the Sunshine Company Saloon, guarantee the $3,000 the OBMA would need to stage the 1st Fireworks Festival.

T-Shirts were sold, an auction was held and many locals donated money. Soon over $5,000 was raised for fireworks.

That first year the clouds rolled in around sunset, while some of the higher fireworks were obscured, the show by San Diego Fireworks Company was still spectacular.

It was one of my proudest moments, sitting on the far end of the pier, as tens of thousands of people on the beach roared when a stationary pyrotechnic display spelled out OB.

Now just to clarify anniversaries, the Street Fair itself didn’t start start until 1983. That is a story for another day.


Frank Gormlie June 11, 2009 at 2:32 pm

Mike – that was an awesome story. Never heard all the details (or at least the ones we can publicize ha ha). Thanks so much for checking in with us.I know I was there in 1980 as I lived here then, but you know what they say …’if you can remember the sixties, you weren’t there’


lane tobias June 11, 2009 at 3:09 pm

that story is really cool – hopefully this year’s celebration will bring out that same type of spirit in revelers.

thanks mike!


Pat June 11, 2009 at 3:51 pm

Mikes memory is definitely better than mine I think I was sitting down wind and inhaled a little to much smoke.


Jody Wood June 11, 2009 at 4:55 pm

Hello friends and neighbors,

We just wanted to say that our band, OLD DEVIL, is really excited to play at this year’s Street Fair. Our band formed in OB just two years ago and we’ve been going strong since. We play at 10 a.m. on the 92107 Stage. We’ll also be at the Farmer’s Market the Wednesday prior and Gallagher’s Irish Pub the night before the street fair. We go on at midnight.

We play a tasty blend of southern roots music, running the gamut from honky tonk, southern rock, and bluegrass, to country and traditional gospel songs. Whether it’s a sweaty bar room or a crowd full of families, you’re sure to get your money’s worth.

We look forward to playing for you all. Check out for a full list of shows in OB.

Thanks for your time.

Jody Wood


Mike James June 11, 2009 at 6:55 pm

One other tradition was started that night. At midnight, after the crowds had left, my brother Rich and his friends would head from the Sunshine Company Saloon to Tower 2 for body-surfing sans-clothes.


Pat June 11, 2009 at 7:46 pm

As I recall we called ourselfs the dophin patrol. Half the time we did’nt even wait for the crowds to leave we went in right after the fireworks ended. Ahhha to body surf in the buff. I remember some years the water being so warm and some so cold. Oh to be young and num.


Frank Gormlie June 11, 2009 at 8:06 pm

Now – these are some of the details I’m talkin about!


Gary Gilmore June 11, 2009 at 9:08 pm

How about the tradition of the marshmellow battle? I remember stashing bags & bags of marshmellow’s in preparation for the onslaught after the fireworks… How did that one get started?


Mike James June 12, 2009 at 12:07 am

I could be mistaken, but I believe the marshmallow wars started with 4800 block of Saratoga Ave. against Michael Stewart and the Boy Scouts. I’m sure this can be verified by Michael Stewart.


Mike James June 12, 2009 at 12:28 am

Sorry I forgot you were part of the Dolphin Patrol. I never took part in that tradition. I had a version of this with the Cape May crew when the water got above 70 and/or a full summer moon.

Frolicking on the phosphorescence shore, our laughter muted by the oceans roar.

We called this going to the Kelp Beds.

Sorry I digress.


OB Joe June 12, 2009 at 6:16 am

On the Marshmallow Wars – I believe Rich Grosch lays claim to being one of the initiators of that tradition.


Pat June 12, 2009 at 6:53 am

Mike no need to be sorry… it was a long time ago.
I can think of two others who were usually there besides brother Rich who are no longer with us.
Billy B and Jimmy R.
Billy was one of our early customers who became a good friend.
He owned Moms saloon in PB.
Jimmy was along time OB resident and good friend.
Frank, some details should probably be left out… we have a stellar reputation to uphold.
Jody, look forward to hearing you guys at streetfair.
Gary, you’ve become a bit of a legend around these parts.
Stories about you hitchhiking out here with a guitar on your back,living on rooftops until became established.
Is this true ? . If not maybe you can give us the strait scoop.


Gary Gilmore June 12, 2009 at 7:44 am

I never carried the (12 string) guitar on my back. It always had it’s own case. Respect. Rooftops are one of OB’s best kept secrets.


Pat June 12, 2009 at 11:31 am

That’s it?
I was hoping for some elaborate story like…
“I was hitchiking out of El Centro when a lady trucker named Large Marge picked me up. Well she wanted to have her way with me and I wasn’t having anything to do with it. So I stepped on the accelerator and we sped uncontrollably down I-8 until we hit the sand at dog beach and came to an abrupt stop. I jumped out of the truck and ran up Voltaire Street and climbed to safety on a roof top. I stayed there until the coast was clear. After that I decided to stay in OB where it was safe. Large Marge later went on to do some acting where she had a bit part in a Pee Wee Herman movie.”
Now thats a story! Maybe I’ll have to start some rumors….


Mike James June 12, 2009 at 12:18 pm

OB Joe,
Yeah, seeing that Rich Grosch lives on the 4800 block of Saratoga I bet he was the instigator of the Marshmallow Wars.

Gary you better come up with your own story before Pat elaborates any more on his version. As president of the Historical Society he has a lot of say on what’s fact or fiction.

Also Gary did you serve as my vice-president of the OBMA in ’80 or ’83.


Gary Gilmore June 12, 2009 at 12:30 pm

Pat! When I die I want you to write my bio. How’d you know about Large Marge?
Mike, Yeah! I was your VP. I’m pretty sure it was ’80 or ’81. Those were good years! Heck….they’ve ALL been good years.


Pat June 12, 2009 at 1:15 pm

My wife pointed out I misspelt numb in a earlier post boy do I feel dum.


jon June 12, 2009 at 2:12 pm

Just checked out your blog Mike. Great stuff. Thanks for all you and your brothers have done and continue to do for this great community throughout the years. This place wouldn’t be the same without your input and determination to keep it weird.


Cancel reply

Leave a Comment

Older Article:

Newer Article: