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14 San Diego Uptown News | Aug. 5–18, 2011


CityFest gets even brighter By Lisa Weir

It all started with the sign. In 1940 the Hillcrest sign was gifted to the neighborhood of Hillcrest by a group of female shopkeepers. The identifying and soon to be iconic sign was erected above University Avenue in the heart of Hillcrest at the

intersection of University Avenue and Fifth Avenue. After falling into disrepair after many years, a group of business owners and community activists took the initiative to bring it back to life. Various contractors offered their services to engineer and refurbish the sign. The California Neon Company won the contract-

ing bid and rebuilt it entirely for the small price of $4,000. At the time, $4,000 was no

small feat for the neighborhood. In a collaborative effort to raise the money necessary for sign repair project, the residents and shop owners in Hillcrest held fun- draisers, put out collection boxes, and reached out to individual

neighbors for funding support. In 1984 the Hillcrest Sign proj- ect symbolized more than just a label over University Avenue. The process of raising the money and building support represented the spirit of Hillcrest: community, activism and dedication. After the hard work of many, the refurbished sign was re-erected

to its rightful place on Sat., Aug. 18, 1984. Just two weeks later the neighborhood gathered to celebrate the re-vamped sign on Aug. 26, 1984.

This celebration, which is now known as CityFest, started in Au- gust 1984, 27 years ago. On Aug. 26, 1984, the Hillcrest Business Association (HBA) sponsored the loftily named “Hillcrest Sign Celebration and Street Fair” in honor of the new Hillcrest sign. The event started at 1 p.m. with opening ceremonies, as well as various dance and martial arts demonstrations for over 6 hours. At 7:30 p.m. the Mayor of San Diego at the time, Roger Hedge- cock, assisted respected Hillcrest shop owners Gene Coster and Lucy Killea in lighting the sign. Carol Arko, then owner of the Brass Rail and #1 5th Avenue, said, “When they pulled the switch lighting the sign, the crowd just roared. Hillcrest was filled with people.

“Several thousand crowded onto University Avenue and both sidewalks all the way to Fourth Avenue. Revelers also filled the area around the center of the intersection all the way down to Robinson. It was an incredible sight. People sang and shouted and tooted toy horns. The cheer- ing and carrying on lasted for almost an hour. Cars stopped on Sixth and Fourth avenues and happily blew their horns. All over Hillcrest it was like New Year’s Eve at Times Square.” Since 1984 the HBA has

hosted what is now known as CityFest. Each and every year August boasts the most spirited street festival in all of San Diego. Hillcrest locales join neigh- boring San Diego visitors and beyond to celebrate the sign and welcome the spirit of Hillcrest for a daylong celebration, all topped off with a nightly ‘relighting’ of the sign. This year is under- scored by a pivotal new twist in the history of the Hillcrest Sign. Not only does this year mark the 27th annual celebration of City- Fest, it marks the 90th anniversa- ry of the HBA and the celebration of Hillcrest business community coming to re-vamp the Hillcrest Sign once again. After years of dysfunction, and several months of a non-lit sign, the neighbor- hood has stepped up once again to repair the symbolism that shop keepers and residents revitalized 27 years ago. With $40,000 in repairs, the sign will shine even brighter after the re-lighting on the evening of CityFest on Sunday, Aug. 14. The HBA’s Beautification Committee, chaired by Crest Café owner Ce- celia Moreno, has been diligently

see Cityfest, page 16

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