Stern Grove Festival's final concert canceled due to water main break

The final Stern Grove Festival concert of the year has been canceled after a water main break flooded the concert venue and surrounding park. The damage is extensive. Not only is the Big Picnic Concert called off, the park itself is closed until further notice.

The problems began Monday when crews from San Francisco's Public Utilities Commission were working on a water line at 22nd Avenue and Sloat Boulevard. As that crew was tightening a bolt, an air valve failed, sending hundreds of thousand gallons of water into the air, and then down into stern grove park. 

"It's completely buried the concert meadow under about two feet of silt and sediment and it's surrounded three backstage buildings," said Tamara Barak Aparton from San Francisco's Recreation and Parks Department.

One of the major concerns, the danger of falling trees. "The ground was just saturated and it undermined the root systems of about 50 of those big trees and several trees are already on the ground," said Aparton.

At this point crews from Recreation and Parks and the PUC are working together, trying to determine just how much damage was done, and how to begin cleaning it up. "We estimate that it will need at least two weeks to dry before we can even get equipment in there to start repairs and restoration of Stern Grove," said Aparton.

The leak takes place just days before the final concert of the Stern Grove Festival concert series, which was set for Sunday. Oakland's own Tower of Power and Too $hort were set to perform. 

Now, concert organizers say with the damage to the site, and the danger posed by falling trees the only responsible step they could take was to cancel the much anticipated show. "There was no way for us to put on a final concert this upcoming Sunday with such short notice and such extensive damage," said Matthew Goldman, Stern Grove Festival's chairman.

Organizers say the timing of the flood, with less than a week until the performance, that there simply wasn't time to find a new location. 

"Although there was a lot of good will extended to us about different options," said Goldman. "But, I think people expect a certain experience they're only getting at Stern Grove. So we didn't feel we could do it justice moving on such short notice and frankly I don't think our organization could have pulled it off."

Organizers for the Stern Grove Festival say they managed to put on nine great shows this year, and say they're committed to bringing the shows back. This upcoming show was also set to be the major fundraiser for the non-profit that puts on the shows, and organizers say they will be losing a lot of potential funding.

If you're interested in donating to help Stern Grove host more shows and bring more live music to the city, you can check out the link here.