The future of Music in the Park, San Jose’s long-running summer music festival, hangs in the balance as its popularity has outgrown the confines of Plaza de Cesar Chavez, the park between the Fairmont Hotel and The Tech museum.
The Thursday-evening series began more than 20 years ago as a way to draw people to an empty downtown that had little in the way of entertainment or public events. The free summer concerts lured nuclear families, hip-hop heads, tech geeks, San Jose State professors and students, baby mamas and business people to an all-inclusive scene particular to San Jose: West Coast with a South Bay twist.
Barring major changes, however, Thursday’s concert—the 13th and final event of the season—could be the last Music in the Park.
Scott Knies, executive director of the San Jose Downtown Association, admits that one of the nation’s biggest and oldest free concert series is at a crossroads. Complaints from downtown business owners and residents have increased this summer, and attendees at an Aug. 12 association meeting expressed the view that while everyone enjoys Music in the Park, the concerts now attract an “undesirable element.” That’s a euphemism for pot-smoking or gang-attired youth who cause trouble and don’t spend money at restaurants and entertainment venues.