Ocean Beach welcomes summer with business-friendly fair
‘Celebrate the OB Vibe’ featured local artisans, live music and family entertainment.
After more than a year of battling the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, several businesses in Ocean Beach celebrated the start of summer with the return of a traditional fair — albeit with a twist this year.
The Ocean Beach MainStreet Association presented “Celebrate the OB Vibe,” a free community event along the waterfront on Abbott Street to support businesses affected by the pandemic.
It was akin to the annual Ocean Beach Street Fair & Chili Cook-Off but on a smaller scale and set up in parking lots rather than on streets near the beach. Due to the uncertainty of health-related restrictions, the usual event was canceled in 2020 and this year.
“Merchants have had enough setbacks, and this is a time to celebrate,” said Barbara Iacometti, president of the association. “We have bars, breweries, retailers, restaurants and we need to support them. This setup gives everyone a chance to come out and support our businesses, as well as our artists.”
Businesses along Abbott Street and Newport Avenue kept busy throughout the day, some with lines of customers wrapping around their storefronts. While the pandemic brought challenges for businesses, the area has not seen an increase in vacant storefronts like some other neighborhoods.
“Right now we are full. There are no businesses that are out,” said Tracy Wagner, operations manager for the association. “A lot of businesses deferred their rent. There’s a lot of businesses that are waiting to see what happens after summer, but summer is our busy time and that’s when most merchants make their money.”
Dozens of local artisans selling handmade goods also saw heavy foot traffic.
Among them was Kathy Ford, who sells plant hangers, light pendants and hand-dyed wall decor. She began her small business during the COVID-19 lockdown last year.
“I have a business administration job and we’ve been working from home,” Ford said. “Last year, I needed to have a creative outlet. I’m a very creative person. I just started making things for friends and family, and then I started my shop. Being out here today is just great to see people’s reactions in person after just interacting online.”
An in-person experience with others was a plus for many of the several hundred visitors who occupied the Ocean Beach waterfront.
“It’s wonderful to be able to walk down the street, come down here and see other kids,” said resident Dave Jalonen, who made kites with his daughter and wife Ruth at a booth hosted by the Kiwanis Club of Ocean Beach.
The Kiwanis Club also paused its annual kite festival due to the pandemic but made a comeback at “Celebrate the OB Vibe” by providing about 1,000 free kites for children to decorate, set up and fly along the beach.
At Ocean Beach resident Tony Melendez’s Rad Hatter booth, visitors could decorate paper hats using a variety of art supplies.
“This is art therapy. People are walking around with their hats and others are saying, ‘Hey, you look good in your hat,’ and that’s good because people’s esteem has been down during the pandemic,” Melendez said.
The event also marked his official return to business, he said, since COVID-19 kept him from doing his average of about 170 annual shows, where he provides entertainment with his interactive art.
“Celebrate the OB Vibe” also featured live music, games, raffles and food vendors. The MainStreet Association’s traditional street fair and chili cookoff is slated to return in June 2022.