Stern Grove Festival


You’d think I’d be used to the crowds by now. After a year and a half, you’d think I’d learn that crowded is the default state in SF. I look back over the events I’ve attended, and I realize that I am constantly writing about it. There are very few things in my life that I can depend on, but I can always count on a large hoard of people at every public event in the city. Also, I can usually bet on the smell of marijuana wafting through the air.


Yesterday, I got to hear a performance of the SF Symphony at the Stern Grove Festival. It was one of those “Free concert in the park. Bring a blanket and a picnic” kind of outings. Sounded like fun! But I have to admit, I was not prepared for the crowd I encountered.

I showed up 20 minutes before kickoff, and I was told that the main lawn was full, and that I had to walk 5 blocks around the park and come in the other side. So I was taking the Trail of Tears with the other late-comers, when I saw several of them sneak into the woods. Curious. I followed. We ended up in a woodsy area right behind the main lawn, and several people started setting up their chairs and picnics. From this forest hideout, I could see the crowd on the main lawn, but not the stage. Ballpark estimate: there were probably 4000 people down there, and there was an additional 1000 in the woods with me. And who knows how many walked around to the other side?

I never would’ve guessed there’d be such a strong turnout for classical music. In most towns, going to the symphony is not the “cool” thing to do. But I guess there’s always strong enthusiasm for FREE. Of course, there were a few people who got angry that the lawn was closed; I guess I wasn’t the only one who was surprised by the crowd. Oh, and the smell of weed. Every. Single. Outdoor. Event. I can’t seem to escape it…


our secret forest hideout

After all the fuss, it was a wonderful afternoon! I sat on the ground, surrounded by Eucalyptus Tress, and listened to Beethoven’s 9th Symphony. For the last part (the joyful joyful part), the orchestra was joined by the San Francisco Symphony Chorus. Together, they put on an amazing performance and brought the house down! When they played the final note, we were all so moved that we jumped to our feet with loud applause and praise. It was really a great show, and I was so thankful that the SF Symphony played this free concert (because let’s be honest, that’s the only way I’ll see them).


My view of the stage

The Stern Grove Festival is a summer-long concert series. Every Sunday, there is a different concert and it’s all free!! For a list of all the performances, visit

Stern Grove Amphitheater is located at 19th and Sloat Blvd, which is easy to get to by the M or K line. You can bring food and alcohol. Kids are welcome! But remember to get there a few hours early… to beat the crowd.


eucalyptus trees


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