An estimated 8,000 people spill onto the streets for Excelsior District’s own Sunday Streets festival
By Calindra Revier
Brian Belknap arranged his multi-instrumental set on the side of the street where families from all bikes of life were enjoying the day’s festivities.
Belknap is just one of the many street musicians and performers who participated in the one-mile length of Mission Street shut down for Sunday Streets in the Excelsior this year.
“You play bigger rooms and it gets kind of weird, you can’t see people’s faces,” he said as he began to unpack his guitar and placed his accordion beside himself, next to a banjo and a foot drum while kids and families rode by on an assortment of bikes. “This is kind of a literal leveling.”
Sunday Streets is an all-ages event run by Livable City, a nonprofit organization whose purpose is to encourage healthy and active living.
“You’re going to find plenty of activities like yoga, dance, music and acrobatics,” Scott Reinstein, development and communications director for Livable City, said.
Thanks to the leadership of Mayor Gavin Newsom, who wanted, in a quick and cost-effective way, to address the issues relating to open space and chronic health disease, Livable City launched its all-ages event in 2008, focusing on communities that have low access to open space (with few exceptions) and healthy, active living.
Aerial dancing, bike riding, bike maintenance and a green bookmobile complete with solar panels and a hybrid system focused on delivering part of the San Francisco Public Library to needy citizens anywhere, were just some of the highlighted events of the day.
“It’s a movement away from sedimentary lifestyles as well as transit by car and not by bike, or mass transit or walking,” Reinstein said. Working close with city agencies coordinating routes and street closures, police officers and volunteers, make this event possible.
“The goal is to get people out and get people moving and having fun. It’s also a great place if you are nervous about walking in the street or riding in the street or in the city,” Reinstein said. “This is a safe place to do it because you don’t have to worry about car traffic.”
Rosario Cervantes has been the music coordinator for the Excelsior Sunday Streets for 12 years and has really enjoyed bringing the community together.
“It’s all about building relationships,” Cervantes said, smiling. “It’s a wonderful way of bringing the different neighborhoods into the Excelsior.”
Different acoustic bands and artists lined the 12 blocks of Mission Street, between Avalon and Theresa streets to Geneva Street, with promises of dance that ranged from Latin, to rock ’n’ roll, to hip-hop.
A City College business graduate, Cervantes emphasizes the importance of her education.
“I want to highlight City College because it’s an important institution for higher learning. I hope to God they can keep it open because it’s very valuable.”
This humble event has grown from two events a year to producing as many as 10 a year, fueled mainly by over 400 volunteers who donate thousands of hours every year.
Sunday Streets will host its final event in the Mission District Oct. 19, expecting to draw out close to 75,000 people with a little less than 2 miles shutdown.