This Saturday, Oct. 21, the Fulton Street Party celebrates the official grand reopening of Fulton Street from 2 to 10 p.m. The epic multi-block party, thrown by the Downtown Fresno Partnership, will pay homage to the street’s history while envisaging the legendary strip’s reinvention as a booming arts, commerce, and nightlife capital of the Central Valley.
With a lineup including indoor and outdoor art galore; an abundance of pop-up shops and craft fairs; food trucks, bars, and coffee shops; beer and wine gardens; food sampling from local restaurants; three stages of live music; a parade of classic cars; and even California’s first indoor ninja-themed restaurant and throwing-star range (yes, I really said that), there’s enough distinctive fun on the schedule to awaken even the most jaded Fresnan’s sense of wonderment and possibility.
A city re-reborn
The six-block stretch of Fulton Street between Tuolumne and Inyo in the center of downtown Fresno has long been an emblem of downtown Fresno’s fortunes. It transitioned from a vehicular cruising strip into the pedestrian-exclusive Fulton Mall in 1964 (see this charming 1968 doc, A City Reborn, for more on that historical chapter), but was all but abandoned decades later as the city’s construction boom charged northerly.
Now, in the wake of an extensive redevelopment project, the reimagined Fulton Street seeks to embody the best of both worlds, offering two opposing lanes for car traffic while simultaneously providing the walking space, outdoor art installations, and inspiring fountains that characterized the Fulton Mall. The street’s new extra-wide sidewalks still promise plenty of space for strolling, dining, canoodling, and people watching—perfect for an area that is being rebranded as the Fulton Entertainment District.
Continuous activities and entertainment all evening
A full afternoon and evening’s worth of activities are slated for Saturday’s once-in-a-lifetime celebration.
• The kids won’t want to miss the festivities’ kickoff at 2 p.m., when Gaston Middle School’s Band, Choir, and Folkloric Dancers and the We Got the Beat Youth Percussion Band will set a high-spirited tone for the day.
• At 3 p.m., you’re invited to witness history as city bigwigs officiate at a ribbon-cutting ceremony that will rededicate Fulton Street, re-opening it to traffic after 53 years! This will take place at Mariposa Plaza (Fulton and Mariposa streets).
• From 4 to 7 p.m., Fulton’s future gets in gear with a nostalgic look back, as the Draggin’ the Main Car Cruise will feature a pageant of classic cars slowly rolling up and down the reopened street to strut their stuff, a la American Graffiti, in a nod to the street’s 1950s and early ‘60s notoriety as a cruising hotspot.
• Meanwhile, starting at 4 p.m and continuing to 10 p.m., a lineup of some 20 musical acts gets underway on three different stages (set up at Mariposa Plaza, Kern Plaza, and Merced Street next to Arte Américas—see map below).
Bands scheduled to play include 40 Watt Hype (4-4:45 p.m.), Stoneshiver (6-6:45 p.m.), The John Clifton Blues Band (7-7:45 p.m.)) and Blake Jones and the Trike Shop (8-8:45 p.m.) and there will even be a poetry reading by Fresno’s poet laureate Bryan Medina. A comprehensive schedule of musical acts can be found here.
Pop in at a pop-up
A plethora of one-of-a-kind pop-ups sprouting in the storefronts along the new Fulton Street promise to ignite the imagination and tickle the taste buds. In the stretch between Tuolumne and Fresno streets, you can view and purchase the work of local artists at non-profit Creative Fresno’s storefront/gallery (1240 Fulton); you can get a taste of the hard cider, specialty cocktails, and cold-brew coffee from the forthcoming D’s House of Coffee and Cider (1242 Fulton); be transported by the silky, made-from-scratch confections of chocolatier Raphio (1236 Fulton); and enjoy a pesticide-free, fair-trade cup of joe from Lanna Coffee Co. (1236 Fulton).
In the second super block, between Tulare and Fresno streets, you’ll be able to explore an outpost of the Fresno Art Museum (1121 Fulton); dip into a one-shot wine bar (1123 Fulton) featuring Moravia Wines, Ziveli Winery and Kings River Winery; and slay your hunger while you hone your shinobi skills at Hella Ninja’s Food Court & Indoor Throwing-Star Range (1036 Fulton)—don’t worry, the throwing stars are plastic! You’ll also be able to recharge at Fulton Street Coffee Roasters (1030 Fulton) and get inspired by live demos and handcrafted items, or build a car to race on the “nerdy derby track” while enjoying live music and specialty drinks at Ideaworks (1018 Fulton). Finally, meet some of the valley’s most dedicated crafters, assembled under one roof in the Helm Building (1119 Fulton) for Craftapalooza, a great chance to get a head start on your Christmas shopping!
From Tulare to Inyo streets, you’ll be able to get a mouthful of “Fulton & Vine” by Madera’s The Vineyard Restaurant (944 Fulton); get jazzed up with cocktails and music (including a youth jazz workshop at 4 p.m.) at Lil’ Bourbon Street (in the mezzanine of the T.W. Patterson Building (966 Fulton); and shop directly from local boutiques, makers, and artists at an exclusive mini-mall, Bazaar Boheme (966 Fulton).
If carousing’s your thing, take heart! The beer and wine will be flowing in designated drinking gardens along the strip. At Kern Plaza (Kern and Inyo streets), the Downtown Fresno Ale Trail presents a Taste of the Ale Trail, where, from 4 to 10 p.m., $20 will get you 10 tastings (two from each brewery represented) and a souvenir glass. Meanwhile, at Mariposa Plaza, several wineries will be represented, including Engelmann Cellars, LoMac Winery, Maréchal Vineyards, alongside selections from the Tioga-Sequoia Brewing Company.
Tioga-Sequoia also will be celebrating its 10-year anniversary with a public toast at 1:30 p.m. in the beer garden at 745 Fulton St. The brewing company will release two special beers for the occasion: a 10 Year Anniversary Ale, which is a blend of ales, and the Fulton St. IPA.
A one-of-a-kind experience for Fresnans
Witnessing history in the making has never been this much fun before. And enjoying downtown has never been more hassle-free, thanks to the day of free parking garages and open meters! As Downtown Fresno Partnership’s Christopher Rocha puts it, “Many guests may have not visited Fulton or Downtown for many years, except to maybe attend jury duty or pay a parking ticket. This is a great opportunity come enjoy yourself in Downtown.” We’ll see you on the strip!
More Fulton Street reading