• Otter Views: Home Town Party

    Did all that really happen?

    Visitors who hit town Monday morning can be pardoned for not recognizing Pacific Grove as the site of a weekend extravaganza that filled the streets with fairgoers, stilt walkers, zumba dancers, music fans, straw hat vendors and countless kettle corn kernels. By Monday, all evidence had vanished.

    This seaside town may be economically strapped and pension-challenged, but it sure throws a heck-a-fine party. Several yearly, in fact. Let’s see: Good Old Days, Fourth of July, Feast of Lanterns, Christmas Parade . . . am I missing any? When’s the butterfly parade?

    After many decades of this, PG has developed a crack, well-drilled SWAT team of party planners, parade producers and set strikers. It’s almost like a repertory opera company. No sooner does the curtain fall on one massive production than the next one is rolling out from the wings.

    Even after witnessing a couple of evolutions of this, I’m still amazed at how smoothly and swiftly everything seems to go. I say “seems” because nothing this complex is ever entirely trouble-free. There are always cancellations, no-shows, late or missing deliveries, scheduling conflicts, PA system flameouts, antique fire engines that won’t start, you name it. This town party business generates a lot of heartburn and hair loss.

    That said, it surely looks like PG has this event thing grooved. Look at this most recent one. It was beset by complications and logistics challenges, not to mention an incipient marine mammal crisis. Yet Good Old Days purred through town all weekend like a well-tuned Hupmobile.

    There isn’t space or time here to enumerate all the kiddie rides, food booths, music shows, dance troupes, street buskers and merchandise vendors who turned the town into a mile-long block party. Suffice it to say, there truly was “something for everyone,” even if that meant inflatable Star Trek women and baseball bats.

    Also inflatable was my favorite attraction, the “Bubble Ride” at the white Gazebo park near the library. Watching Friday’s set-up for this, I was puzzled to see a large fresh water pool confined within four puffy orange pontoons. Was this to replace the decommissioned children’s pool at Lover’s Point? Would kids swim and wade in here?

    Saturday brought answers. As kids stepped gingerly onto baggy neoprene sacks, ride workers gunned their leaf blowers through sealed intake ports. Presto! The sacks inflated into giant transparent spheres with one rider zipped inside each. Workers then rolled the spheres up a ramp and onto the water, where the delighted occupants flipped, flopped and tumbled trying vainly to stay upright. It was better than the flying bubble scene from “Oz the Great and Powerful.”

    Strolling amid the countless vendors’ booths and food tents lining the Lighthouse Avenue “midway” reminded me how close that came to not happening. A generous private gift had funded a handsome facelift for the town’s major intersection: custom brickwork, new signage and drainage, landscaping pop-outs, masonry rings around the trees. All top-shelf, and all topped off just days before the Good Old ones. Talk about your town manager heartburn and hair loss.

    Worrisome in another way was a “big event” at the shoreline: the first live birth of a harbor seal pup at the Lover’s Point beach in living memory. In all, five seals could be seen on the beach at some point in the hours preceding Good Old Days: two mothers, one yearling, one live pup, and one stillborn pup its mother would not relinquish. Bay Net volunteers reported that the bereaved mother lay beside her dead pup for two days on the beach, then carried it in her mouth when swimming. Seeing the little flat pup beside its mother on the sand saddened me.

    Others were saddened for another reason. What if the seals were to commandeer the Lover’s Point beach on the biggest human weekend of the year? When I posed this to the mayor on Friday, he didn’t hesitate. “We’ll have to close down the beach,” he said. As it happened, the seals seemingly departed before the people arrived, thus averting a conflict of rival mammalian beachgoers.

    It made me wonder, though. Visiting San Francisco’s Pier 39 and the former “children’s swimming beach” at La Jolla has left me with a sincere regard for what seals can do when they take a place over. The recent appearance of a four live seal vanguard at Lover’s Point may presage a rookery to come.

    Meanwhile, a few blocks upslope, the G.O.D. festival spun busily on: colorful parade units, flying tea cups, wheelchair dancers, 240 food and craft vendors, 60 musical acts, glossy vintage autos, kiddie pony rides, the hemisphere’s most adorable petting zoo.

    And lastly, the wonderful jam band Moon Alice. They gave out two different posters this year.


    posted to Cedar Street Times on April 19, 2012

    Topics: Otter Views


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