Starting next week with the 20th annual Crossroads of California in downtown Manteca you could book every weekend through mid-October with a street fair happening somewhere in Northern California, the Bay Area, the Northern San Joaquin Valley, or the Gold Country.
Street fairs are more than just a collection of vendors, crafters, food and entertainment. They are an excuse to explore new towns — or even your own downtown if you are not familiar with it — while getting outside.
This year’s Manteca street fair has a new twist.
The Manteca Convention & Visitors Bureau has added a third day. Vendors and guests are invited to the Friday Night Kick Off Party at Library Park, April 1, from 5 to 9 p.m. Festivities include a performance by the Sierra High School jazz ensemble and $5 “Taco Trucks,” featuring Greek, BBQ, Mexican and carnival foods.
Wine and craft beer tasting for $10 per ticket is being sponsored by Manteca Grocery Outlet.
The corresponding carnival takes place at The Promenade Shops at Orchard Valley near JC Penney at the 120 Bypass and Union Road, on Thursday, March 31, through Sunday, April 3, from 4 to 11 p.m.
Some 50,000 guests are expected to stroll by booths offering unique gifts, crafts, tantalizing foods and entertainment during the actual street fair on Saturday, April 2, and Sunday, April 3, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
The 20th annual event is not just a chance to inspect and buy the wares of 300 vendors offering everything from crafts, unique music tapes, and flea market-style toys to the famous Lockeford sausage and kettlekorn but is a great time to people watch, take in what promises to be a beautiful spring weekend as well as see what’s new in downtown Manteca.
The street fair takes place. in the downtown Manteca triangle formed by Center Street, Main Street and the railroad tracks.
Many people make the street fair a two-day venture. Some will browse the first day and return the second for serious shopping. Most, however, who make it a multiple day adventure do so because they either wanted to go back and get something that caught their fancy the first day but couldn’t decide on whether to buy, to try a different food item that they simply ran out of stomach room for on their initial trip or to savor the atmosphere which allows you to leisurely stroll and strike up conversations with friends and neighbors.
Although it doesn’t officially open until 10 a.m., many vendors welcome people to browse — and even buy — before that time. Most vendors arrive downtown between 3 and 6 a.m. Saturday morning. It’s organized mayhem as they set up for the two-day event but usually by the time 8:30 a.m. rolls around many are either raring to go or are just putting finishing touches on their booths.
It is an excellent time to get a bit ahead of the crowd and scout out your plan of attack if you’re a dedicated street fair shopper.
Parking never seems to be a problem. Even at peak times throughout the weekend you always seem to be able to find a parking space within two blocks of the downtown triangle.
Even with much of Yosemite Avenue blocked off and side street connecting to Center Street closed, there are still more than 600 parking spaces on the streets and public lots available within three blocks.
Some of the lots that are overlooked include behind the closed Kelley Brothers Brewing Co. in the 100 block of South Grant and the public lot at the FESM Hall in the 200 block of North Main. Both are within a block of the street fair.
A small but growing number of people — avid walkers primarily — access points along the 3.4-mile stretch of the Tidewater to reach the street fair primarily from Manteca’s northern neighborhoods.
It’s an ideal way to take in early spring blooms going to and from the street fair.
There are also plenty of ATMs at the street fair. They are at the Golden Valley Credit Union on Center Street just down from the library, Guaranty Savings and Wells Fargo at Center and Main streets, Bank of America at Main and Yosemite as well as the Financial Credit Center at Main and Grant. There is also Washington Mutual at Maple and Center.
Be ready for the unexpected. Over the years, I have returned from street fairs with framed Thomas Kincaid reproductions, unique rebar creations for the garden including a wheel barrel and a tea cart, toe rings (not for me), handcrafted shirts and the list goes on.
None of the items we ended up buying and have cherished over the years did we go looking for specifically. That is one of the charms of street fairs. You’ll see stuff that will catch your fancy.
Don’t eat before you venture out to the street fair.
There are countless opportunities you won’t be able to resist from funnel cakes and kettle corn to ice cream, Lockeford sausage and culinary creations you never dreamed of that your tastebuds will absolutely love.
If you don’t want to snack your way through downtown but still need to keep up your strength, there is a host of downtown spots within the street fair that are well-worth trying if you haven’t yet.
By the same token, don’t forget to check out the downtown stores that will be open, especially on Saturday.
Don’t worry about working up a thirst. The Manteca Convention & Visitors Bureau will be selling cold canned soda and water at various locations.
It is also a great opportunity to check out chances in downtown including an up close inspection of the various murals gracing downtown walls.
Since you’re downtown, you also might want to use the opportunity to stroll two blocks to the west on Yosemite and visit the Manteca Historical Society museum. It is open Sunday from 1 to 4 p.m. It’s free and definitely entertaining.
A number of people make the street fair a two-day event. If they come on Saturday, they usually return with another friend on Sunday or else just come back to hit the food booths again or to simply chat with people.