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Summer Hot List

Sand Castles, Shakespeare, and Sacagawea- oh my! It's time to dig into the 2008 Summer Hot List.


Courtesy of Shutterstock

Packed full of rock concerts, art festivals, and family activities - here's the ultimate guide to the endless East Bay summer.  So put on some sunblock, pack your picnic basket, and slip on those dancin' shoes - it's time to have fun, fun, fun!




Personal Take
And They're Off!

What’s not to like about a fair with carnival rides, curly fries, free concerts, cute little knickknacks, and exhibits of fine art, hobbies, and agriculture? The Alameda County Fair, running from June 20 to July 6, has all that and more.

From June 25 to July 6, horse racing is an integral part of the fair. The racetrack at the Pleasanton fairgrounds, the oldest track in the United States, celebrates 150 years of racing this year. A great deal of history has been made over that century and a half: Morvich, the first California-bred horse to win the Kentucky Derby, trained for the 1922 derby at Pleasanton, and Charles Howard built a special stable at the track and used Pleasanton as a training facility for Seabiscuit. Free 150 Years of Racing T-shirts will be given out June 25.

Fans can watch today’s stars and listen to the runners thundering down the stretch from the trackside rail, or they can enjoy the race while dining at the Trackside Terrace, which has TV monitors on each table.

Each race day begins at 11:15 a.m. with track announcer Frank Miramahdi and paddock commentator Professor Gordon Jones conducting daily handicapping clinics for novice and veteran fans. Master impressionist Miramahdi calls the day’s final race under the guise of Rodney Dangerfield, the Godfather, or Marv Albert.

There’s plenty of excitement every day with the win-place-show contest, in which fans pick the top three finishers of a specified race.

Alameda County Fair, 4501 Pleasanton Ave., Pleasanton, (925) 426-7600, www.alamedacountyfair.com. Admission $6–$10, parking $8–$15.

—Chuck Dybdal, member of the National Turf Writers Association.
Photograph by Doug Duran/ Contra Costa Times

More Highlights

May 31–June 1
Art and Wine Festival
Heather Farm Park, Walnut Creek

June 21–22
Danville Fine Arts Faire
Hartz Avenue, Danville

July 9–12
Fire Arts Festival
The Crucible, Oakland

July 12–13
Art Under the Oaks
Alden Lane Nursery, Livermore,

July 17
Summer Wine Stroll

July 24
Taste of Terroir
Livermore Valley

July 24, August 21
Hot Summer Nights
Downtown Danville

August 9–10
Moraga Pear Harvest
Moraga Park & Recreation

August 24
Day in the Park
Camp Arroyo, Livermore

August 25–26
Oakland Chinatown Streetfest

August 30–September 1
Art & Soul Festival
Ogawa Plaza, Oakland

August 31–September 1
Harvest Wine Celebration
Livermore Valley


Personal Take
Rock This Way

Photograph by Pamela Springstein
As a member of the East Bay music community, I sort of wear my heart on my sleeve. I’m tired of feeling like we’re the Jan Brady of music scenes. San Francisco is always stealing the music media’s attention from us. When I heard about Robert Plant, Alison Krauss, and The Police performing in our own backyard, I fired a “How do you like us now?” fastball at my S.F. scenester friends as though I were A’s pitcher Rich Harden brushing back Giants newcomer Aaron Rowand.

Is this our time to shine? The summer list of local shows suggests we might finally get some of the recognition we deserve. Of course, I don’t intend to miss the hottest shows in the city, what with the Outside Lands Festival and all. That three-day event, with its amazing lineup, is sure to rock.

But, don’t forget that Robert Plant will get the Greek smokin’ (if you know what I mean) on June 27. Plant has ditched his trademark leather pants for a black turtleneck. He has also replaced one string virtuoso (guitarist Jimmy Page) with another: violinist Alison Krauss. I love this odd couple. Mix Krauss’s angelic bluegrass softness with Plant’s raspy iconic rock vocals and tons of reverb, and the result is a fresh—sometimes weird—country jam.

I was psyched when The Police rolled through town on their reunion tour, one of the most financially successful tours of 2007. But, I define success differently: Sting and Stewart Copeland are still on speaking terms—which means we get to see them again. The tantric yoga–
practicing vocalist and fiery drummer have mellowed with age, but the music is still as energetic as it ever was. The Police play the Sleep Train Pavilion on July 16, this time with a worthy opener—Elvis Costello. I’d go just to see this bespectacled rocker.

—Jason Jurgens, editor of Bay Area music website TheOwlMag.com.

More Highlights

June 28
Mark Knopfler
Greek Theatre, Berkeley

June 30
The Blind Boys of Alabama
Yoshi’s Jazz Club, Oakland
Courtesy of Live Nation

July 4
Red, White, and Blues Festival

July 8
Chris Isaak
Wente Vineyards,

July 8
Stevie Wonder
Sleep Train Pavilion, Concord

July 25–August 29
Blackhawk Summer Concert Series

July 27
James Taylor
Greek Theatre, Berkeley

August 15
Steve Miller Band
Sleep Train Pavilion, Concord

August 16
Donna Summer
Paramount Theatre,

August 22–24
Outside Lands Festival with Tom Petty and Radiohead,
Golden Gate Park, San Francisco


Personal Take
Sand Castles

Photograph by Aaron Tong
The family-friendly contest takes place this year on Saturday, June 7. From elaborate castles and humorous sculptures created by skilled adult teams to chaotic constructions by Cub Scout packs, this competition has room for all ages and skill levels—and it’s free of charge.

Competitors create a castle or a sculpture on a 10-foot square of sand. Judges award prizes in the categories of 12 and under, 13 and over, and family group. There’s a best-of-show award for both castle and sculpture. The usual thousand or so spectators in attendance have almost as much fun as competitors, as they view imagination brought to life.

No big prize money is at stake here: Winners receive ribbons, castle-shaped trophies, and bragging rights until tidal action returns the entries to the amorphous sand from which they arose.

Robert Crown Memorial Beach, Eighth St. and Otis Dr., Alameda, $5 parking fee per vehicle. Registration starts at 9 a.m., prizes awarded at 1 p.m. For contest details, call (510) 521-6887 or (510) 747-7529.

—Ned MacKay, East Bay parks columnist for Bay Area News Group

More Highlights

June 1
Photograph by Ed Lim
Children’s Art Festival
Centennial Park, Pleasanton

June 9
Environmental Games
Lindsay Wildlife Museum, Walnut Creek
www. wildlife-museum.org

June 15
Hot Rod Run and Big Family Fun
Blackhawk Museum, Danville,

June 28
Family Extravaganza: Squish, Drip, and Drool
Museum of Children’s Art, Oakland

July 17
Jonas Brothers
Sleep Train Pavilion, Concord

July 24
Kid of the Lunch Hour by Firehouse Rocks!
Del Valle Theatre, Walnut Creek
www. lesherartscenter.org

July 26
Chevron Family Theatre Festival
Lesher Center for the Arts, Walnut Creek

July 26–27
Berkeley Kite Festival
Cesar Chavez Park, Berkeley

August 7, 14, 21, 28
Pictures at the Plaza Todos Santos Plaza, Concord

August 8–17
Seussical the Musical
Woodminster Amphitheater, Oakland

August 17
Kids’ Triathlon
Oak Hill Park, Danville



Personal Take
Under The Stars

Photograph by Rob Kunkle

Theater alfresco makes perfect sense in, say, the Central Valley, where summer evenings are velvety warm and the air is perfumed with the musk of fresh-cut alfalfa.

Here, veterans of the outdoor theater circuit know that Bay Area summer evenings are more suited to walruses and penguins than humans in shorts and T-shirts. Yet, we insist it just wouldn’t be summer if we didn’t hit the mittens and parka circuit at least once. It’s fun to don the long johns and pack a picnic and a jug of wine to enjoy the East Bay’s increasingly delightful array of summer shows, from Shakespeare to Sacagawea.
This summer’s focus at the Willows Theatre will be on Lewis and Clark’s female Shoshone Indian scout, starting July 31, when the theater hosts the world premiere of Sacagawea, the musical, in the company’s Muir Amphitheater in Martinez. Commissioned by the Willows, with music by Craig Bohmler and book and lyrics by Mary Bracken Phillips, Sacagawea has been several years in the planning and writing. The production is by the same team that created the other Willows original American West saga, John Muir’s Mountain Days, and is part of a 10-play cycle envisioned by Artistic Director Richard Elliott.

Elliott’s idea is exciting for its sheer ambition. If the Muir musical is any indication, the Willows is in the process of fashioning a memorable theatrical and historical legacy that will be a summer highlight for generations.

Sacagawea, Thursdays–Sundays, July 31–Aug. 9, at the Muir Amphitheater, Martinez Waterfront Park, $25, (925) 798-1300, www.willowstheatre.org.

—Pat Craig, theater critic for Bay Area News Group

More Highlights

May 29–June 1
Savage Jazz Dance Company 
Courtesy of Livermore Shakespeare Festival

Malonga Casquelourd Center for the Arts, Oakland

June 20–22
Oakland Dance Festival
with Company C Contemporary Ballet and ODC/Dance, Oakland

July 10–26
Annie Get Your Gun Willows Theatre,

July 10–August 2
Livermore Shakespeare Festival

July 12–20
Il Trovatore Festival Opera,
Walnut Creek

July 12–27
West Side Story
Alameda Civic Light Opera, Alameda

July 18–August 10
Beauty and the Beast Pleasanton Playhouse, Livermore

July 31–August 2
The Mikado
Lamplighters Music Theatre, Walnut Creek

August 6–31
Uncle Vanya
California Shakespeare Theater, Orinda

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