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Fun, Free and Fabulous: Yerba Buena Gardens Festival 2021

By SF/Arts Editors

As San Francisco reopens, a perfect way to kick back into gear and experience live music and performance again is to check out the wealth of top-notch free events happening at the 2021 Yerba Buena Gardens Festival through August 28.

For over two decades, the Yerba Buena Gardens Festival has presented free outdoor music, theater, circus, dance, poetry, and children’s programs with artists from the Bay Area and around the world. With a gap year in 2020, this year’s festival is back with gusto and opens with a June 26 concert by Bobi Céspedes, matriarch of Cuban roots in the Bay Area.

2021 YBG ChoreoFest - Yerba Buena Gardens Festival performances on Saturday, July 10, July 31, and August 14. Photo: Stephen Texeira

July highlights include the first sessions of a three-part series of dance events by Yerba Buena Gardens ChoreoFest, showcasing the talents of nine local dance companies (July 12, 13, August 4), Poetry Tuesday, Artists Against Anti-Asian Violence (July 13), music by Zydeco musician Andre Thierry (July 22) and Oakland’s hip-hop orchestra Ensemble Mik Nawooj (July 24). Discover some magic and fantasy by taking the family to the Children’s Garden Series featuring Pi Clowns (July 23) and Red Panda Acrobats (July 30).

In August, check out more theatrics by Circus Bella (August 28), music with The Valerie Troutt Trio (August 12); the ever-popular Lavay Smith & Her Red Hot Skillet Lickers (August 5) and the CubanJazz Project (August 19). The AfroSolo Festival promoting African American and African Diasporan arts takes over the Gardens August 7, and The Native Contemporary Arts Festival celebrates the creativity of North America's indigenous peoples on August 26.

Get your own dancing shoes on and join the free Tuesday morning dance classes hosted by Rhythm & Motion - they believe "anyone can dance"

“I could not be more thrilled to announce this special Festival season of free performances and concerts this summer,” says Festival Executive/Artistic Director Linda Lucero. “On behalf of the Festival staff and board, I am so excited to welcome everyone back to the beautiful Gardens to experience our region’s rich cultural diversity and the immense fortitude of our local artists and performers. After a long period of isolation for many of us, Yerba Buena Gardens Festival remains a space for art and joy, welcoming people from all walks of life. There's nothing that gladdens the heart and spirit more than celebrating the performing arts together under open skies.” 

Visit www.ybgfestival.org for full schedule. Stay tuned for announcements of further artists and program for September. 

Main image: Ensemble Mik Nawooj plays Yerba Buena Gardens Festival July 24. Photo by Pat Mazzera

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