Mike James: The First Ocean Beach Street Fair

by on June 13, 2019 · 15 comments

in Ocean Beach

obstreet-fair-longview2Originally posted June 26, 2009

by Mike James / Out of Bounds

As co-chair of the first Street Fair, I must set the record straight. This year’s 30th Annual Street Fair is actually the 28th.

The first street fair which took place July 4th, 1982 and was an expansion of the Fireworks Festival which began in 1980 (hence the 30th annual).

Sponsored by the Ocean Beach Merchants Association and KPRI Radio, the event was held on the 4900 and 5000 blocks of Newport Ave. With no vendors and a crowd in the hundreds, it seemed somewhat bare compared to the hundreds of vendors and the tens of thousands that show up now a days.

The venue included a few rides, a stage for the 4 bands and a 40’×80′ metal fence encased “Beer Garden”.

Still fun was had by all.

First OB Street Fair

My favorite memory was the mechanical bull which was situated right in front of the Strand Theater. I can still hear the amplified Texas twanged voice of the bull operator as he encouraged the crowd, “Whose gonna ride this here bull in Oceeean Beeeeach Calli-forn-ya.” Urban Cowboy had just been released and Obcieans wanted to give John Travolta a run for his money. So with long hair a flyin, many earned the title of “O.B. Buckaroo”.

The most popular event that day was the competition for the coveted title of Miss and Mister O.B. In the late afternoon, bikini clad ladies and muscular men strutted their stuff in front of hundreds of adoring fans. With no Q and A, winners were quickly chosen and the audience and contestants poured back into the bars.

Another highlight was a martial artist breaking a world’s record by breaking something like 5 blocks of ice with his bare hands. I believe the ice was later used for Margaritas at Le Chalet.*

Much was learned by the committee that first year. I recall pushing a broom up and down Newport Avenue at ten o’clock that evening (while cursing my co-chair and brother Ron who was entrenched at Pac Shores) and thinking next year we should hire a cleaning crew.

It’s satisfying to see that this event has become one of San Diego’s premier events.

*the Le Chalet later became Bullfrog’s and is currently Gallagher’s Irish Pub. Also the ice was never really used for human consumption

{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

Frank Gormlie June 26, 2009 at 1:29 pm

Pretty hot stuff, Mike. Hey, thanks for bringing up Le Chalet – I had forgotten about that place.


Dave Gilbert June 26, 2009 at 1:52 pm

Very cool Mike! That was when Winstons was still “the Beach Club” too.


Mike James June 26, 2009 at 2:11 pm

I remember when Bill Winston first bought the place. He came into the James Gang to order shirts. I tried to talk him into keeping the name the Beach Club. I told him I thought Winstons was a lousy name. I am just glad I wasn’t 86’d for life.


Dave Gilbert June 26, 2009 at 3:12 pm

I love stories like that Mike!

The old owner of the Beach Club’s name was a Chinese guy named Dick, and he was a pretty cool dude. Between the Beach Club and Le Chalet, local bands had regular places to play and get paid a little something too.

The stage at the Beach Club was so rickety though, that after a weekend gig there my old band “Ruckus” decided to rebuild it. It wasn’t as big as it is now, but it was in the same place and after reinforcing it you didn’t have to worry about putting your foot through anything any more.

ahhh, good times! ;)


OB Joe June 26, 2009 at 3:48 pm

Bill Winston, what a tragic figure!


annagrace June 26, 2009 at 3:51 pm

Hey Mike- Never underestimate the importance of the clean up detail! I learned that one the hard way too….


bodysurferbob June 26, 2009 at 4:25 pm

Mike – I still count only 29 anniversaries


jon June 26, 2009 at 4:38 pm

I love it. Only OB would not be totally sure what anniversary it is. “Ocean Beach’s 30ish annual Street Fair and Chili cook off!” Classic OB.


Mike James June 26, 2009 at 5:14 pm

Your right Bob, it would be the 29th anniversary, but the 30th Annual. So it’s the
27th anniversary of Street Fair or the 28th annual. Any way you look at it, it was along time a go.


Mike James June 26, 2009 at 5:18 pm

I forgot to mention the Chili Cook-off started in 1985. So the T-shirt should say
“The 30th Annual Fireworks | 28th Annual Street Fair | 26th Annual Chili Cook-off”

Recall those shirts Pat and get on that.


Frank Gormlie June 26, 2009 at 6:00 pm

Jon, laughing so hard can’t type. 30ish anniversary

Mike – recall those shirts – you guys had me goin.


Dickie June 26, 2009 at 8:46 pm

Joe, I am ignorant . . . why is Bill Winston a tragic figure?

I think I was at the 10th-ish OBSF with my daughter and some good family friends, including two other preteens. I believe we stayed next door to jettyboy’s, pre-conflagration . . . and I still have great pix of Risë, my daughter, and Megan and Josie, her friends, with great face paint jobs, standing on Newport mugging for the camera. That was long after I’d moved north, but when I was still coming to OB a lot.

When I can I’ll scan ’em and send ’em in.


OB Joe June 26, 2009 at 10:52 pm

Dickie – Bill Winston, owner of 2 clubs (and who knows what else), ran for Congress one year – totally out of the blue. He didn’t seem satisfied with his life. Which ended tragically when he was in his early 40s (?) – he just collapsed one day, and that was it. Maybe someone else has more details. But he was tragic in the sense, he busied himself with two time-consuming but apparently successful clubs, he was giving back to the community, but despite all this – he dies an early death.


Geniezuc June 27, 2009 at 8:02 am

Here we go………Hope to run into some of you today. Hey, my memory of the 1st street fair was when the Ocean Beach Free School set up tables, crafts, and displays (mostly by the kids, and very funny, Paul and David had a magic show!), anyhow it was on Santa Monica between the school and rec center. I have articles etc about it in my old arcives of the Free School newletter that I can dig out if anyone is interested. There definately was no Chili though, lol.


Barbara Len July 17, 2009 at 1:36 pm

I lived in OB a short while from 1981-1983 – thought I’d never leave as I LOVED that town but I fell in love and moved to Alaska…But while in OB I interned at the OB Community Services and was on the OB Town Council…And involved in all of the local events.

I held onto my bright orange OB Fireworks Festival t-shirt (I think it was from 1982), and now, TODAY, my 21 year old son is driving down from where I currently live in Ventura to SD to find housing as he is transferring to UCSD. He is spending the night with friends in OB so he decided to wear that t-shirt! Brings back SO MANY GREAT MEMORIES!!!

It all comes full circle.


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