SF Mayor London Breed announced Thursday that the Stern Grove Festival will return to Sigmund Stern Grove this summer — but there's no lineup yet, and even though it starts after June 15 when theoretically the COVID precautions will be fewer, there are a whole bunch of COVID precautions.
The 84-year-old free outdoor musical festival that runs from mid-June to August is typically a pretty crowded affair, and often features performances by the San Francisco Symphony and SF Ballet, as well as established and up-and-coming music acts. The festival didn't happen in 2020, obviously, but recent year lineups included The New Pornographers, Janelle Monae, The Isley Brothers, Toots & The Maytals, Pink Martini, Fantastic Negrito, and Kool & the Gang.
But this year's event will look different, at least at the outset, and at least according to a press release today, which mentions things like "new temporary fencing and other key infrastructure to help maintain proper social distancing," as well as required reservations and capacity limits which never existed at Stern Grove before. Also, since attendance will be limited, this year's festival will be live-streamed for the first time.
"For generations, San Franciscans have spent summer Sundays relaxing in the natural beauty of the park while experiencing incredible live performances," says Rec & Park General Manager Phil Ginsburg in a statement. "Stern Grove Festival is a beloved institution and we are thrilled to have it back at Stern Grove, where people can safely enjoy connecting with music, nature, and each other."
The first concert will be on Sunday, June 20 at 2 p.m. — and while we'd usually have a lineup by now, that is still in the works, and they're not even saying who'll be performing on June 20.
"The return of live music marks a joyful part of San Francisco’s recovery," says Breed in the announcement release. "For more than 80 years, Stern Grove Festival has been bringing us world class performances in a beautiful public park — free and accessible to all. And while I know the official announcement of the lineup is to come, with what I’m hearing about the first show, I absolutely cannot wait to be there."
She added, on Twitter, "Let's all get vaccinated and have some fun."
It may be that the festival will change course with safety protocols as the summer wears on — and as San Franciscans get tired of all this safety business when (hopefully) there's little to no COVID going around and nearly everyone is vaccinated and this whole thing is outdoors. But as it stands, reservations are going to be required and reservations will only be allowed for groups ("pods") of up to six humans. Check the Stern Grove website for further details before each show, and/or follow them on Twitter.
No date has yet been given for when the first reservations will be made available.
The dates this year are June 20 and 27; July 4, 11, 18, and 25; and August 1, 8, 15, and 19. In recent years, the Symphony has performed on the third or fourth weekend, and the Ballet about three weeks after that.
Top image courtesy of Stern Grove Festival