Alameda personified by art, wine

Veronica Hall,
Layout Designer

When you live somewhere long enough, you become a part of the traditions that a place embodies.

Being born and raised in the small town of Alameda, I know what to expect on the island. There is always a 4th of July parade, the beach will be crowded on hot days, and during the winter holidays, Thompson Avenue—better known as Christmas Tree Lane—is packed with people.

For myself and many of my fellow ‘Alamedians,’ these things are a given and can lose their excitement as the years pass. After so long it feels like the same event and many non-locals make these happenings overcrowded.

But there is one event that always seems to connect residents and outsiders alike. The Art and Wine Faire is a weekend festival that runs in downtown Alameda on Park Street. It’s one of the town’s biggest free events, filled with five blocks of food, drinks, art, games, vendors, and live music. With 2017 being the 33rd year of operation, it’s a classic summertime event for the city.

Alameda always emphasizes fun for the whole family and I have to admit, that is true when it comes to the Art and Wine Faire. I’ve attended this event my entire life, and although I may have missed a few, you could find me there the majority of my life.

When I was a kid, I went to the faire to play games and begged my mom to buy me stuff. As a teenager, I went with my friends to look cool and even had a few dates there. But now that I am an adult, I can enjoy the namesake wine and buy my own overpriced trinkets, something I dreamt about doing as a kid.

However, this year was different. There was a lot more advertising for the faire than I had seen in years prior. I saw countless commercials and heard a few radio promotions about it. I was surprised that the city of Alameda worked so hard to bring more people into its compact space.

They definitely succeeded; this was the most crowded Art and Wine Faire I’ve ever seen. People were everywhere, lines were long, and a place to sit was nonexistent. They also advertised parking as if there would be plenty of spaces.

I was excited to hear that because I live close to Park Street and my street is known to get congested with cars trying to find an open space. All of the advertising worked to bring in more people, but the increased parking appeared to be a myth. As I came out of my house, every inch of my block was covered with cars.

I walked to the festival and was engulfed with a strange feeling of possessive jealousy. What were these intruders doing in my hometown? Why must they come to my territory for my city’s event? There was already never any parking on my street and now these unknowns were invading my space. I felt like I was the president of Alameda and these people didn’t know anything about the island or the more than 80,000 people that live on it.

Most of the jealousy wore off after about an hour at the faire. Just as I had expected, it was the usual street festival with the same vendors and typical 70s and 80s music. The only thing different was a glass of wine in my hand and less space to move around in.

Being the small town that it is, I ran into numerous people I knew. Any event in Alameda will always be a reunion with folks I’d either love to catch up with or try to avoid, another guaranteed aspect of any Alameda gathering.  

At one point, I was stuck talking to an old family friend and increasingly felt my social battery dwindle. As I looked around, I didn’t know anyone and for a brief moment, I felt relief like I was blending in with everyone else.

I came to the realization that these outsiders weren’t so bad after all. Not only were they bringing in more revenue for Alameda, their overpopulation on this occasion helped me to escape some awkward conversations.

After some time, I was excited to see so many different people enjoying themselves on the same streets I walked on thousands of times before. It was a beautiful day and I reminded myself that people were looking to have a good time, just like I was.

Alameda has expanded in recent years with more homes and a new shopping center, but the city always works to keep a strong sense of community with events like these. It’s becoming more than the quiet town I grew up thinking it was. I’m happy about that; it’s like Alameda and I grew up alongside each other.

I felt some sort of jealousy sharing Alameda with other individuals. But now I see why so many people want to come here. Alameda is a gem; it has a small beach-town vibe but is busy enough for it to be a fun and friendly city. I now see why my mom would always call it the isle of style.

I used to try to downplay my pride for Alameda, but I can’t help but to love my hometown and relish in all the traditions it has. No matter how old I get or where I may end up, I will always be a true ‘Alamedian.’