There are neighborhoods that get a lot of ink in town — even newbies like Eastchester — but if we're really talking east, let's celebrate the OG, aka east Bakersfield. And that's exactly what's on tap Saturday at Jefferson Park.
The gathering will bring food, games, a kids zone, live music, health resources and local organizations together for an afternoon of fun in the heart of east Bakersfield.
Vying for title of No. 1 east side fan is City Councilman Andrae Gonzales, whose ward 2 includes a swath of the neighborhood (as well as downtown).
"When I took office a year and a half ago, I wanted to make east Bakersfield a special focus in my tenure as a councilman," Gonzales said.
Last year, he organized the first East Bakersfield Festival, which focused primarily on bringing health screenings and information to the community.
"It was important to have a community health fair for east Bakersfield, bringing together lots of different agencies," he said. "Last year, this first health fair, it was a fun time."
And health remains an important issue in the community where some residents may be reluctant to seek preventive services.
"It allows everyone to come to a safe place and get linked up," said Natasha Felkins, who served on this year's organizing committee and was a vendor last year for Planned Parenthood Mar Monte.
Dignity Health will provide blood pressure and glucose testing on site and Adventist Health children’s mobile immunization unit will provide free vaccinations for children who do not have health insurance are enrolled in Medi-Cal or are American Indian. (The child's immunization card is required.)
Other vendors include Kern Family Health Care, Community Action Partnership of Kern, Kern Medical Center, Kern County Department of Public Health, Golden Empire Transit, Bike Bakersfield (offering a bike rodeo) and United Way of Kern, which will provide information on services for people transitioning from homelessness.
In addition to the health and resources component, this festival is about fun with a free kids zone with inflatable obstacle course, face painters for children and a soccer clinic, led by a professional soccer player, showing some techniques. Felkins said the kids activities were made possible through funds from Supervisor Leticia Perez, whose fifth district includes the neighborhood.
Food will also be available for purchase, from cool treats from Kona Ice to snacks and plates from Taco El Gordo, Que Pasa and El Churro Loco.
Felkins said, "It's pretty much Latino-influenced comfort food — quesadillas, tacos, elotes — what we've come to expect at events on the east side."
Music will be provided by Mento Buru, featuring special guest Marco Reyes of the Latin rock band War, and Grupo Feliz.
The festival is also a chance to highlight Jefferson Park, which is a valuable summertime resource for the community with its basketball courts, spray park and pool.
"This lets other people know outside of east Bakersfield how beneficial parks are not only to this side of town but everywhere," Felkins said. "It unites the east side. A large number of people can come together and celebrate this space."
Gonzales hopes the festival draws not only people from the east side but those from other city neighborhoods.
"I think it will be great if people from all over the community come to the east side and celebrate what we have to offer."