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Buskers on the Bay, April 16 & 17

The Spring Busker Festival is expected to draw more than 14,000 people.
The Spring Busker Festival is expected to draw more than
14,000 people.
courtesy photo

On an ordinary day, you might pass a lone guitarist strumming for tips at downtown's Seaport Village. Busker alert: the cobblestone streets along the waterfront will be filled with extraordinary street performers and curious onlookers at the Spring Busker Festival, a celebration of weird and amazing feats the weekend of Saturday, April 16 and Sunday, April 17.

The fifth annual festival will feature 10 buskers, and a few roamers, that specialize in unusual entertainment such as sword swallowing, fire and knife juggling, stilt walking, and stunts with pogo sticks, hula-hoops, and unicycles.

LA-based Alex Clark and Dave Kaplan of Project Dynamite are a crowd favorite - they won the People's Choice Award at Seaport Village in 2008 and 2010. This year the duo will perform comedic stunts separately.

Clark tours the world year around, but didn't plan on being a busker.

"I wanted to be a Disney animator or a comedian," Clark said. "I took art classes in Boston and on my lunch break I went to Faneuil Hall. The buskers there were the best in the world. I thought, 'wow, these guys are funny and can stand on an empty street corner and have 400 people gather around.' That's impressive. I later found out that an English teacher of mine had been a street performer. I told him he had to teach me how to juggle. I needed those skills! It snowballed from there."

Buskers don't perform for the money. While tips and prizes are great (the prize is a $500 travel voucher), Clark says he's motivated by an audience's response, the freedom and travel. "My last show was the Adelaide Fringe Fest in Australia," he said. "We were there for five weeks. The Seaport Village crowd is one of the best too. This year, I'll do a new freestanding ladder act, a 10-foot ladder held up by four ropes held by audience members. And I'll juggle ping-pong balls with my mouth. Just watch for the funniest guy on a very tall ladder."

For the 18 and over crowd, there's Buskers After Dark, said Terry Hall, Seaport Village General Manger. "That's when buskers can get a bit loose with their language and humor," she said. "There's a DJ, food and drink specials, and a bit more fire in the night show! But during the day it's all PG rated and family friendly."

Hall says the Spring Busker Festival avoids the usual sort of entertainment. "We bring acts that are jaw-dropping," she said. "We have two stages with shows starting at the top of the hour. Performers switch stages Sat. and Sun., for those itching to see them all. The festival just gets bigger as the word spreads about how much fun it is."

Busker Festival info: Free entry and 2 hour parking validated with purchase, $3 per hour thereafter. Free shuttles will operate from the County Admin. Building (1600 Pacific Highway). Parking is $10 for the day, and shuttles run every 15 minutes from noon to 6 pm.

Details »
  • City: San Diego
  • Organization: Seaport Village
  • Venue: Seaport Village, 849 West Harbor Drive, #D, San Diego, CA 92101
  • Dates: Saturday, April 16 & Sunday, April 17, 2011