People in San Jose know that summer really starts when the dancing begins. And where is this dance extravaganza? In the community of Willow Glen, where the 16th annual Dancin' on the Avenue street party will get everyone bopping this Saturday. The evening event attracts some 35,000 people, making it one of San Jose’s largest festivals. With free entertainment, food for sale and kids’ activities, it’ll have you dancing in the streets.
Why we like it: This fun and festive event from 4-9 p.m. Saturday takes place on Lincoln Avenue in what can only be described as a gigantic block party. The admission-free event features live music on three stages as well as a community entertainment stage. Among the toe-tapping groups providing dance tunes this year are Blue House, a band that’s shared the bill with Phish and k.d. lang, as well as funk/soul-flavored Sage, the crossover country of Slingtown, and tribute band Divas of the Decades, which pays homage to female stars like Madonna, Linda Ronstadt, Pat Benatar and Gwen Stefani.
If you don’t want to cut a rug yourself, then watch local dance groups and entertainers, such as Campbell's Adam the Dancing Cowboy, “who will get everyone to line dance,” said Norma Ruiz, executive director of the Willow Glen Business Association, which organizes Dancin’ on the Avenue each year.
The event also showcases Willow Glen's finest eateries, which set up food booths for the evening. You can expect to nosh on great eats when you’re not dancing, an array that includes everything from pulled pork sandwiches to dim sum and wood-fired pizzas. Beer and wine will also be available for the 21-and-older crowd.
And even more to like: If you like multicultural dance, you’ve come to the right place. The Community Stage will put a wide assortment on view, with bellydancing troupes, an Irish dance company, the dance/martial arts blend from Brazil called capoeira, children’s groups, and the salsa stylings of Zumba slated for the evening.
Families will also enjoy the Kids’ Court, a special area for youngsters, with a smorgasbord of entertainment and fun for your little ones. There, they can get glitter tattoos, have their faces painted, try games like the lollipop toss and a racetrack with remote controlled cars, and make their own bookmarks and sand art, among other activities.
About Willow Glen and Dancin’ on the Avenue: Willow Glen was established in the early 1900s and early on, Lincoln Avenue became the heart of the business district there. At one time Willow Glen was its own town, but it joined up with the city of San Jose in 1936. Nevertheless, the community has its own distinct personality, and the bustling business district has more than 250 establishments, ranging from restaurants to boutiques to yoga studios.
The idea of Dancin’ on the Avenue was originally put forth by the Willow Glen Business Association, said Ruiz, because “they wanted an evening event for the beginning of summer that would be a community dance party. It has stayed true to that concept, and it’s been growing every year since then.”
Directions and phone: Take a right onto East Hamilton Avenue; then left on Meridian and right on Minnesota. Start looking for parking, since Lincoln Avenue will be barricaded between Willow and Minnesota avenues. An event map and parking suggestions can be found at www.willowglen.org/festivals/dota2011/map.php. For information, call 408-298-2100, or see www.willowglen.org/festivals/dota2011.