It’s for the music — and the park.
Jerry Garcia may be the most famous man to grow up in The City’s Excelsior neighborhood. For the past six years, a concert in his honor draws more and more locals to this hidden working-class neighborhood.
Jerry Garcia Day, a six-hour marathon of music, will today take over John McLaren Park and its Greek-style amphitheatre, which is named in honor of Garcia.
Each year, supporters hope the event’s 3,500 attendees come away with a new appreciation for San Francisco’s second-largest park, which is 318 acres of rugged parkland south of the U.S. Highway 101-Interstate 280 interchange, and the neighborhood on its border.
“Every year when people come to concerts, they say, ‘How come I didn’t know this was here?’” said Franco Mancini with the Friends of McLaren Park. “It’s one of the most gorgeous natural parks within city limits.”
This year’s concert lineup includes Melvin Seals, who performed with the Jerry Garcia Band for 15 years, an acoustic set from Garcia’s longtime friend Sandy Rothman and Stu Allen, Workingman’s Ed and Loco Bloco.
Jerry Day was founded in 2002 as a $5,000 fundraiser for the Crocker-Amazon Playground, and has since snowballed, co-founder Thomas Murphy said. The amphitheatre was renamed in Garcia’s honor in 2005, in part to draw more attention to the venue, he said.
“We thought this could be a real cultural event for The City, and help put us on the map,” Murphy said. It now raises about $15,000, which covers the cost of producing the event.
Garcia grew up in two houses in the Excelsior neighborhood. He lived at 121 Amazon St. until he was 5, and then spent much of the rest of his childhood at 87 Harrington St., Murphy said. The guitarist’s posthumous book, which retells some of his childhood stories, is called “Harrington Street.”
Concert organizers hope that Jerry Day will bring some much-needed attention to McLaren Park, said Kirsten Krehbiel, program director for the San Francisco Parks Trust and co-organizer of the event.
“People love Golden Gate Park because they have a great time there,” Krehbiel said. “Once people go [to McLaren Park], they make a connection to the space, and that level of engagement inspires stewardship.”
WHAT: Jerry Garcia Day
PERFORMERS: Melvin Seals and the Jerry Garcia Band, Workingman's Ed, Sandy Rothman and Stu Allen acoustic, Loco Bloco
WHEN: Today; noon to 6 p.m., doors open at 11 a.m.
WHERE: Jerry Garcia Amphitheatre, 45 Shelly Drive, McLaren Park