Discovery Meadow, San Jose; Tel. 408.278.5563
As gay marriage grows in acceptance, are newly nesting couples going to pass on the event and watch the parade on TV? Don't count on it. The annual San Jose Gay Pride Festival is split up into two days. Saturday is a community day in the park with family activities, pickup volleyball, bingo, local entertainers and DJs.
On Sunday, a colorful parade kicks off activities at 11am before the festival begins proper with food booths, arts and crafts, informational booths and live performances (previous entertainers have included Cyndi Lauper, Joan Jett, Crystal Waters, CeCe Peniston, Margaret Cho, Pansy Division, the Cheeseballs, Orchestra de Soul, Silicon Valley Gay Men's Chorus and every disco diva there ever was). There's also a Country & Western dance floor, a ProLatino cultural garden, a Leather Alley and the ever-popular Watergarden Dance Tent.
Christmas Hill Park, Gilroy
The oppressive heat of July only gets hotter in Gilroy during the last full weekend. That's when cooks fire up the gas grills in honor of the righteous garlic bulb. The assertive herb gets chopped, minced and pressed into pesto, scampi, french bread, mushrooms, french fries, ice cream--all available for chowing down. A highly coveted cooking contest, arts and crafts booths, demos, daredevil skateboarders and BMXers join live music and general food-coma laziness in an afternoon saluting the mighty bulb. A generous portion from the gate and food sales benefits local charities. (Todd Inoue)
Cesar Chavez Park and other downtown San Jose venues
The San Jose Jazz festival promises to maintain the well-earned reputation of the festival as one of the finest jazz festivals in the country. Each year over 80 performers are welcomed to ten stages throughout downtown San Jose. Special events and great food add to the celebratory ambiance of this Bay Area music festival that draws around 100,000 people.
San Jose Cinco de Mayo Parade & Festival
Every Cinco de Mayo weekend (that's the fifth of May for those that don't speak Spanish), there's a parade in downtown San Jose in honor of the Mexican-American culture. The festivities that go along with the parade bring musicians, dancers, food vendors and activists to Guadalupe River Park. Around 300,000 people attend San Jose's Cinco de Mayo Parade & Festival to learn about and celebrate Mexican heritage. Free admission. (Avital Binshtock)
July 3-4, Discovery Meadow, San Jose. Tel. 408.284.2100, ext. 444; www.americafestival.com
In the South Bay, it's no big thing to see a taqueria, Korean grocery store and Indian restaurant in the same minimall, or a ramen house, Indian spice store and Thai restaurant sharing parking space. The South Bay is blessed with a diversity that other counties envy. The San Jose America Festival celebrates the many local cultures through music, entertainment and activities.
Produced as a benefit for the Emergency Housing Consortium [EHC], this event traditionally raises funds to support their programs designed to end homelessness. The America Festival takes place every year for the Fourth of July holiday in downtown San Jose, and attracts as many as 200,000 for the event that features the City of San Jose's official fireworks show. There are three stages of musical entertainment and cultural performances, great ethnic foods, arts and crafts, and loads of information and activities for people of all ages and backgrounds.
The festival takes place from 11am to 10pm on July 4 and is preceded by the Day on the Meadow concert on July 3, noon-10pm. The festival site is always at Guadalupe River Park's Discovery Meadow, which is accessible via public transportation, Highways 280, 680, 101 and 87 or CalTrain.
San Jose Obon Festival
Fifth and Jackson streets, San Jose
The Obon Festival celebrates dead ancestors and relatives but it's far from a downer. Festive lanterns hang from the streetlights, making the party easier to find for the spirits. The teriyaki, sushi, shortcake and tempura booths offer good eats. And the Bon Odori dance offers entertainment all. Every year, the traditional dance draws hundreds of participants from young kids with happi coats and Pokeman fans to grandmothers in elegant Japanese kimonos. The Obon Festival is Japantown's largest cultural event filled with game booths, food, cultural exhibits and demonstrations, music by the Chidori Band, San Jose Taiko and dancers in full costume each evening.
SJSU Event Center, San Jose, Tel. 888.SAN.JOSE; www.tahitifete.com
Often confused with the more serene Hawaiian hula, Tahitian dance is the polyrhythmic hip-shaking style seen on Hawaii 5-0 reruns. At this annual early-July event, Tahitian dance companies from America and around the world--including Mexico, Japan, Canada, even Tahiti!--make the trip to San Jose to immerse in the largest Tahitian cultural exposition outside of the islands. Workshops in dancing, drumming, costume design, nose flute, language and music are part of the weekend. Groups and individuals compete for the coveted dance awards.
Tapestry Arts Festival
Labor Day weekend, Park Avenue, Almaden Boulevard, San Fernando Street, in downtown San Jose
Tapestry Arts Festival is what downtown festivals aim to be, filled with strolling people, bands playing music, lots of good food, and no drama. The festival attracts 250,000 art lovers to the streets of San Jose every Labor Day weekend to learn about and purchase goods and works from 350 local artisans. Tack on a kids activity area, an indoor home and garden show, an interactive alley with climbing wall and hang gliding simulator and Tapestry Arts becomes downtown's favorite late summer event.
Santa Clara County Fair
Santa Clara County Fairgrounds, www.thefair.org
The Fair has struggled with its identity over the years--scaling back the number of days, even attempting to appeal to the tech set one memorable year. It seems the core things the fair excels at is what county fairs across America do: the destruction derby, livestock and plant judging, the carnival midway, corn dogs, candy apples and cotton candy. It's also the place to watch bands either on their way up (both *NSYNC and Backstreet Boys played the Fair during their nascent years) or down (forgotten Latin, soul, country and rock & roll bands with or without its original members). The Fair is like Frontier Village in Silicon Valley--a throwback to traditional Americana.
Boulder Creek Art, Wine and Music Festival
Memorial Day Weekend; free. Highway 9, Boulder Creek
Notice the use of the word "music" sitting in the place that "jazz" would in most titles of similar ilk, because this ain't no hoity-toity affair. Located smack dab in the center of Boulder Creek, a rustic little town in the Santa Cruz Mountains, this festival is a curious blend of culture, cramming together sophisticated Santa Cruz Mountain wines, fine juried art and tasteful jazz together with robust beers, earthy crafts and belligerent rock and blues. Rock-climbing walls and bouncy houses keep the kids entertained, while the adults can bore themselves with the political and nonprofit tables before getting rip-roaring drunk and frisky in the woods.
Santa Cruz Blues Festival
Memorial Day Weekend.
Once a year, a different kind of culture descends on the little beachside city of Santa Cruz. Compared to the rest of the town, the crowd that the Santa Cruz Blues Festival attracts to the Aptos Village Park is a bit more ornery, a bit thirstier, but not any less Caucasian--a curious phenomenon endemic to the blues-fest beast.
Nevertheless, since its inception 11 years ago, this festival has attracted some awful big names in blues, wrapping up its first installment with Albert Collins and including over the years acts like John Lee Hooker, Buddy Guy and Charlie Musselwhite, culminating with last year's legendary headliner, the inimitable Ray Charles. Other acts such as Little Feat, Candye Kane, the Iguanas and Nina Storey have kept the festival varied and interesting. Look for Buddy Guy returning to the stage this year, along with hotshot young guitar god Johnny Lang, plus eight more bands adding to the perfect drunken outdoor blues-party soundtrack.
San Jose International Mariachi Festival and Concert
Mexican Heritage Plaza, 1700 Alum Rock Avenue, San Jose; free; 1.800.642.8482
In the new Guy Maddin movie, The Saddest Music in the World, a mariachi band comes in second place in a world wide sad music contest. Proof positive that the contest is rigged--since mariachi music is the saddest music in the world, just as it's the most exuberant music in the world, and as often as not the most romantic music in the world. The fest draws mas importante names, including Mariachi America de don Jesus Hijar, the all-female Mariachi Reyna de los Angeles and many more. Concerts, workshops, and a mariachi mass are part of this not to be missed weekend.