Stern Grove Festival – San Francisco’s Oldest Music Festival
Around 8,500 people packed into Stern Grove Festival with picnics and blankets ready for a day of incredible live music under the beautiful eucalyptus and pine trees. I was honored to host SF’s oldest music festival now in its 86th year. It’s also one of the largest outdoor music festivals in the world.
Before I stepped onto the stage to introduce the acts, I spoke with the Executive Director of Stern Grove Festival, Bob Fiedler. “The people that started the organization were part of the Levi Strauss family line, and they wanted to have a place where free concerts could occur,” he told me. “So they were looking for land and they found this amazing patch of land and they were like, this is the spot.”
“I truly believe this is one of the finest places you can watch music anywhere in the world,” he added. “It’s kind of like a little magic forest land.”
86 Years of Music
86 years later the concerts have continued. Every summer Stern Grove Festival puts on 10 Summer Sunday concerts. It’s all made possible by the support of the community through donations.
The show started with DJ Lady Ryan, getting the crowd ready. Then, the first act.
“Who’s ready to get to the music?” I asked the pumped up crowd. “There is no way you won’t be on your feet dancing. All the way from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Jupiter and Okwess.”
Diverse Acts at Stern Grove Festival
Diversity is the guiding principle for Stern Grove Festival. “We want to try to appeal to as many different types of people as we can,” Fiedler told me. “So, we very intentionally try to book 10 different genres or styles every week.”
All the concerts this year were broadcast on an internet livestream on CBS News Bay Area and live on KBCW-TV furthering Stern Grove Festival’s mission to make the musical performances accessible to everyone.
Finally, it was time for the headliner. “Who’s ready for our next act?” I asked. The crowd replied with a loud, hardy cheer. “She is a 5 time Grammy award winner, Time magazine called her Africa’s Premier Diva and she is one of the greatest artists in international music today, please welcome Angelique Kidjo.”
Fielder said this is the Festival’s gift to the world. “Music is medicine and this is what our gift to society is by giving away free music. Music bridges cultural gaps and brings people together.”
And that’s exactly what a small team at Stern Grove Festival does… they bring people together. They work year round to fundraise so they can give this gift to the people of the Bay Area and beyond.
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