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Remind Me Why I Moved to the San Francisco Bay Area

Rome had its bread and circuses, but Bay Area residents may have it even better.


Saturday morning I showed up at the Ford Plant for the Home Front Fun Run, benefitting the YMCA. At $20, it was the only thing I paid for all weekend.


The night before, we attended the USO Dance in the magnificent Ford Point Craneway, and I got in free with a 40-year old military ID. Great music by the The Junius Courtney Big Band, and dance lessons at intermissions.


Back to the Fun Run, because of the dearth of serious competition in my age bracket, I brought home the gold. Jim Rogers beat me by a good 10 minutes in the 5K (3 miles), but heís just a young thing. No other Council members showed up for this one.


At 11:00 AM. Home Front festivities started, and I enjoyed good food (actually, I did pay for the food, $8.00 at CJ Barbecue) and entertainment until nearly dark, including an hour manning the Rosie the Riveter Trust booth in the Craneway.


The weather was perfect, although a little windy in the late afternoon, as thousands of visitors moved constantly from the Craneway to Lucretia Edwards Park and (via shuttle) to Shipyard 3 and the Red Oak Victory.


This was truly a multicultural festival as evidenced by both participants and entertainment. Shuttling between the Craneway and Lucretia Edwards Park, I enjoyed such diverse artists as Mien Legends, Richmond Jazz Collective, Danza Azteca, Conjunto Romero Band, We Be Jammin's with Class Line Dancers,  Alvon's All-stars Band, Hiz Panic, Mystique Band, Ben Oni Orchestra, Contra Costa Chorale, Singing Blues Stars, Elite Jazz Band, Walter Hand & the Blue Hand Band, Buh-tah, Chocolate Rice Smooth Jazz Band and the Caravan of All-stars Band.


Thanks to the Richmond Chamber of Commerce, the National Park Service, City of Richmond and many volunteers who made the 3rd Annual Home Front Festival a success. I am always impressed by visitors as far away from Bakersfield who never imagined that Richmond had such a beautiful and history-filled waterfront. I am amazed at how an 80-something couple from Bakersfied can find the festival while many locals have yet to hear about it.


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Instead of sleeping in on Sunday, we skipped church and headed for Hardly Strictly Bluegrass in Golden Gate Park to join 750,000 (only 50,000 less than the entire population of San Francisco) to enjoy the only musical cultural theme missing from the Home Front Festival Ė once again entirely free courtesy of Warren Hellman, a billionaire investment banker who loves this kind of music and spends his money every year to give it away to his hometown.


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A little sore from the Fun Run, I eschewed darting among this yearís six stages and camped out at the Banjo Stage to hear the Darrell Scott Band, Hazel Dickens, Doc Watson & David Holt, Earl Scruggs,  Ralph Stanley & The Clinch Mountain Boys, The Del McCoury Band and the closing act, Emmylou Harris.


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I first came to San Francisco in the summer of 1963, staying a couple of weeks before the National Park Service bought me ticket for my first jet plane ride to Salt Lake City where someone picked me up from Yellowstone Park where I spent the rest of the summer. I arrived via Greyhound bus in San Francisco  in the early hours of the morning and spent the night in a Van Ness Avenue Hotel lobby, reporting for work the next morning at the Western Office of Design and Construction near Geary and Van Ness. After that, I crashed at a fraternity house at UC Berkley and spent most of the next two weeks at San Francisco coffee houses listening to folk singers , some of whom made it big and most of whom didnít make it at all.


My next trip was the following year, 1964, where I got to spend several months in the City, living in an apartment near Geary and Park Presidio. Free concerts in Golden Gate Park and other venues were just beginning to take hold.


After graduation, I headed west once again to San Francisco, just making the waning days of the Summer of Love and its full blown free concerts in Golden Gate Park, relishing a few months of freedom before the Army reeled me in. Once that was over a couple of years later, I found myself heading south to Los Angeles and graduate school at UCLA one late summer afternoon. Driving down Highway 1 near Big Sur, I saw lots of cars parked along the road at Esalon. I pulled in and spent the rest of the afternoon at a free Joan Baez concert. Those were the days.


I donít think there is anywhere on earth where people can get more entertainment for free than the San Francisco Bay Area.