With her hot-pink shirt and long, flowing curls, Flavia Williams was hard to ignore as she grooved to the Latin rhythms of the Cabanijazz Project at the Yerba Buena Gardens. By the end of the song, Williams had kicked off her sneakers and stripped off her socks for a better feel of the grass beneath her.
“I was feeling the energy, making the connection with Mother Nature,” Williams said. “Good vibes only!”
Williams was making another connection – that to her Yerba Buena Gardens neighborhood. The lunchtime concert was part of the first-ever Yerba Buena Day on Aug. 19, a day in which the area’s merchants, museums and nonprofits came together to sponsor a day full of events to highlight the best the neighborhood has to offer.
Organizers had previously held a Yerba Buena Night, but the pandemic forced them to change things up and spread out the events to different locations in the neighborhood to allow for social distancing.
Yerba Buena Night “was always a very diverse program, but we needed to partner with more neighborhood organizations,” said Richard Ciccarone, a director with the Yerba Buena Community Benefit District, a co-sponsor of the event.
“We decided to turn it into Yerba Buena Day and spread it out and get a wider range of the community involved,” he continued.
In addition to the show by the Cabanijazz Project, this year’s Yerba Buena Day featured an educational scavenger hunt at the American Bookbinder’s Museum; a walking tour that highlighted the history of Market Street and Yerba Buena’s alleyways; an open mic poet’s showcase at the Museum of the African Diaspora; a hip-hop history workshop at the Children’s Creativity Museum; cocktails and a performance by the Blue J’s and La Gente SF at 111 Minna Gallery; and much more.
“A small group of community stakeholders developed a program that we thought would best serve the widest variety of constituents, including kids, people who live the neighborhood, and the different organizations that serve our different communities,” Ciccarone said.
Organizers were glad to see the 200 people that participated in the events.
“This is the first real event we’ve done since the pandemic,” Ciccarone said. “This is exactly what we thought would happen. We had a couple of hundred people show up, and that’s great. It felt like we were all putting our toe in the water.”
Javier Cabanillas, conga player/band leader of the Cabanijazz Project, had as much fun from the stage as the audience members that his band lured from their seats and onto the lawn that served as a dancefloor.
“I love seeing the mix of ages and the groups that represent different cultures,” he said. “I love how everybody danced and interacted, because that’s what this is all about. Experiences like this is a benefit to everyone.”