The Eclectic | Behind the Scenes

South Pasadena’s Music Festival and Art Walk, a grassroots, volunteer-driven attraction, is now in its 10th year

PHOTO: DmLemattre || Jeff Burke presents the Eclectic Music Festival poster at the Preview Party

When the arts mesh with music, combined with excitement and fun, oh my, it must be time for the Eclectic, South Pasadena’s annual Music Festival and Art Walk.

The city is gearing up for its 10th anniversary on Saturday, April 28, as organizers are anticipating a crowd of 8,000 – 10,000 to let loose for a full afternoon and night of entertainment.

PHOTO: Bill Glazier | | South Pasadena Chamber of Commerce CEO Laurie Wheeler works with a large group of volunteers in putting together the South Pasadena Music Festival and Art Walk, now in its 10th year.

More than 50 musical acts in a variety of genres will perform on 14 stages, including four outdoor venues, plus spaces inside the South Pasadena Library Community Room, Calvary Church, South Pasadena Theatre Workshop and nearby smaller venues. Headlining it all at 8:30 p.m. will be with Grammy nominated, multi-platinum selling Big Bad Voodoo Daddy.

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While the music is blaring, starting at 3 p.m., plenty of art will be on display as the town’s creative juices come alive. The highlight can be found at South Pasadena’s “Astride Aside,” or better known as the “Walking Man” sculpture in front of the city’s metro light rail station, where “The Art Experience,” using light and shadows, will feature an interactive installation by Stephen Hsiao.

But the music promises to steal this show as musicians of all ages carry on the tradition of a pair of visionaries.  Scott Feldmann, the former CEO of the local Chamber of Commerce, and Walter Zooi, who once owned the South Pasadena Music Center & Conservatory envisioned the festival in 2008 with city’s influx of creativity and artistic individuals. “They wanted to give people a reason to stay in town on a Saturday night and help support the local businesses,” explained Laurie Wheeler, the current president of the chamber.

And the magic began to happen. That initial year, it started in a parking lot next to the Music Center & Conservatory and Citizens Bank on Mission Street with three acts on a small stage and drew an audience of a few hundred.

“People walked away saying, ‘This is pretty cool,’” recalls Wheeler. “And it’s grown since then. We’ve added a lot more music. Today, we get submissions from more than 100 bands that want to perform. They come from all over Southern California.”

A core group of 25 people work throughout the year to make the Eclectic happen and another 100 volunteers are called on to help the day of the event.

Once the Eclectic is over, another begins. Wheeler explained that she and her committee hold a debriefing of what worked and what didn’t before plans for the next one are launched.

It’s hardly a one-person show, far from it, insists Wheeler. “There’s no way this could happen without the team,” she explained. “We have a board of directors who all step up to the plate. Other volunteers support us with the marketing, promotion, designing the program, working with the merchants, vendors, setting up and taking down. There are just a lot of people involved.”

At the forefront is the event’s committee, comprised of about a dozen individuals from the music industry, the arts community, the local library, and the South Pasadena Arts Council (SPARC), all coming together with the 15-member chamber board, which, according to Wheeler, lends enormous support to the Eclectic’s success.

Merchants are asked to stay open late into the night during the festival “which is really a key part to the event,” said Wheeler. “We ask them to program a special event in their store. The whole reason we do this is, while we’re putting on huge party for the city, is we want people to come to South Pasadena and discover what is here – great stores and restaurants.”

For the first time in the event’s history, Mission Street will be closed to traffic between Meridian and Fremont avenue and opened up to excitement and fun as the festival’s main stage will be set up in the middle of the major roadway.

The Eclectic is one of the last free music festivals in the San Gabriel Valley. “What an opportunity for the entire family to enjoy South Pasadena – the music, the arts, the shopping and dining – there’s something for just about everyone,” said Wheeler.