Well, I’ve been involved in planning festivals that brought most every kind of music to San Diego over these past 50 years but, at age 75 there are still some ideas I had that didn’t get past the idea stage and I’m going to pass them along so that maybe someone else can pick up the ball and bring them off. The first is a SOUTHWESTERN BORDER FESTIVAL on both sides of the Mexican border (I always thought that Border Field would be a good location), featuring roots music from both sides of the border. When I was a kid living in Imperial Beach I’d often cross the border to pick up Mexican pastries or other edible goodies and bring them back with no problem crossing either way. Today you need a passport to even go to Mexico and crazy Republican Congressmen like East County’s Duncan Hunter talk about Middle Eastern Isis Jihadists sneaking across the border. All talk like that does is stir up hate. A festival like the one I wanted to do would (as most music does) stir up brotherhood and people coming together with music, food, crafts, and ideas. I think also that it could be a tourist attraction for San Diego. How about it?
Well, the old Bostonia Ballroom used to advertise that “it was a mile north and a mile east of the City of El Cajon.” Today the building that used to be the Bostonia Ballroom is located right in the city of El Cajon and the dance floor and stage still exist inside. I saw Hank Williams there in 1952 and through the years I saw Hank Snow, Ray Price, Kitty Wells, Johnny and Jack, Merle Travis, Roy Acuff, Lefty Frizzell, Wilma Lee and Stoney Cooper, Hank Thompson, and a whole lot more there. Folks who go back to the Big Band days in the late ’30s and early ’40s might have seen Jimmy Dorsey or Claude Thornhill, or Jack Teagarden. That place has a pile of musical history. Boy, it’d be a kick to put on a concert in that place. Now that I live out in El Cajon maybe I can someday. Would someone want to work with me on that one. How about it?
As always, the ultimate festivals that took place in San Diego were the two World’s Fairs held in Balboa Park in 1915 and 1939. A park-wide fair would be a real kick and to be in charge of a Folk Life Division of a World’s Fair would have been a real treat. I worked on the Smithsonian Folk Life Celebration in Washington DC in 1976 and the Spokane, Washington, World’s Fair a few years later. San Diego made some noise in the papers awhile back like they were going to do an anniversary of the 1915 Pan American Exposition and World’s Fair in 2015. I immediately tried to get a hold of the folks in charge about a Folk Life Division (which all great World’s Fairs must have) but they never answered my inquiries. I made a few phone calls to folks and they acted like they didn’t know what I was talking about. It also seemed like they didn’t know who I was or what any of the events I’d been involved with had been about. Why is it that politicians and their cronies are always the ones that get put in charge of stuff like this? It’s always those folks who know how to screw it up best I guess. Balboa Park would still be an excellent place for a major musical event or a Worlds Fair. Maybe the Southwestern Border Festival I talked about could be held there. Someone needs to work on that. How about it?
Most other big cities and lots of smaller ones have music events connected to them, which help put them on the tourist map. There’s The New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, the Chicago Blues Festival, the Berkeley Old Time Music and String Band Festival, and many others than I can name. San Diego doesn’t have one (neighborhood festivals yes, but nothing the tourist bureaus and Chamber of Commerce can point to) and we should. There should be an event that causes folks to ask, “Are you going to San Diego this year?” About the only thing that brings up that question is ComicCon and while that is a great and unique event, it isn’t one that brings home thoughts of San Diego. Someone needs to get on the stick and do things right for our City.