It all started with a bumper crop of cherries in 1909. Back then, cherry orchards were everywhere, and San Leandro was the town known as “Cherry City.”
An abundant harvest inspired the Board of Trade and community to create the city’s first Cherry Festival, which was celebrated on June 5, 1909.
According to the San Leandro History Museum, 25,000 visitors from around the Bay Area flocked to that first festival. Miss Bessie Best was chosen as the City’s first Cherry Queen, and 15 tons of cherries were distributed for free to all.
Though the cherry orchards have long ago disappeared, San Leandro still honors its heritage and celebrates its future each year with a Cherry Festival. This year marks the City’s 109th.
With a population of 88,000, San Leandro is no longer a small town, yet those who live there still consider their home to be close-knit, with a great community feel. The Cherry Festival is part of what helps to create that bond, bringing members of the community together in commemoration each year.
This year’s festival was celebrated on June 2. Abundant sunshine reigned supreme and estimates put the crowd total at 40,000 to 45,000.
The festival began with a parade through downtown. Onlookers enjoyed the scene, as a variety of floats, music, kids clubs, politicians, school representatives, and marching bands passed by.
When the parade ended, the festival began. Live music played throughout the weekend as attendees roamed from booth to booth, sampling artisan food, local craft beer, and of course, cherries, which were for sale at the event’s farmer’s market.
Kids had a ball playing at the Kids Zone, and the interactive Arts and Innovation Space was enjoyed by young and old alike.
Katie Bowman, Economic Manager at the City of San Leandro attends with her family every year. She believes the festival is “a good time to bring together a lot of people to celebrate all the great things about San Leandro and take pride in their community.”
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