People from all walks of life gathered at 20th and Valencia streets on Saturday to celebrate the 15th anniversary of 826 Valencia, a writing and tutoring center co-founded by novelist Dave Eggers.
The atmosphere was quaint as children played carnival games, bands performed and the people strolled around, soaking up the sun. It seemed a small haven from a day of political marches and counter-protests flaring up around the city, including ones close by at Dolores Park and 24th Street.
“I would have wanted it to be more crowded, but I understood, once we got the news about the protests,” said Denise Goldstein, one of block party’s event managers. “But we’re getting a big neighborhood contingent.”
Goldstein said she’s worked with 826 on events for the last couple years because she agrees with its mission of inspiring creativity in children through writing. “It’s always been a soft spot in my heart,” she said.
Carlee Daniel, 28, was hanging out in the shade with one of her friends. “It’s a really cute, bubbly event,” she said, explaining that she has stopped by 826 several times to buy items for her sisters, who are in high school.
Danny Ricci, a member of Dot Vom, a rock band that played at the event, said she was happy when invited by event co-host Different Fur Studios to play a set. “I used to volunteer at 826 in college, and I love the organization and what it does,” she said.
Shaunte Spruell, 47, was at the block party with her teenage daughter. Spruell said it was the first time she had heard of 826 and is considering getting her daughter involved. “It’s great to stimulate young people’s minds — it gets them away from something negative,” she said.
Jefferson McCarley, general manager of Mission Bicycle, was manning a booth for his shop. On the surface, he said, the block party wasn’t helping his business, but in the end, the event — and his participation in it — served a greater good. “The street party is killing our business today,” he said. “But if my sales can dip for one Saturday, it’s worth it.”
McCarley, who is also a member of the Valencia Corridor Merchants Association, said that 826, which is also a member of the association, has been an active stakeholder in the community and how it should function. “That’s the thinking of the merchants [association],” he said, “to put the neighborhood over business.”
Chris Mustain-Wood, who was working at the clothing store After Life, said the event wasn’t noticeably affecting business — but if it did affect business, it wouldn’t matter. “This is a good area to have community events, especially for 826,” he said. “Building the street into a more people-friendly area is good for business.”