Quick Take:

It’s been a bumpy few years, to say nothing of an awful winter, but with the sun shining, we deserve a little fun (or a lot!), and who better to help us fill our calendars with the really good stuff than Wallace Baine?

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If we all still lived in the age of the boombox — as opposed to the current Earbud Era — the beaches and residential sidewalks around Santa Cruz County might very well these days be alive with the sound of an endless loop of two songs: “Here Comes the Sun” and “I Can See Clearly Now.”

It has been, to quote the former, “a long, cold, lonely winter.” But, as April ripens, every morning feels like, to quote the latter, “it’s going to be a bright, bright sunshiny day.”

In this time of climate turmoil, optimism may be a refuge for fools. But after three years of pandemic madness, one apocalyptic summer of fire, a political and economic roller coaster, and maybe the most harrowing winter of this century, April 2023 feels like a respite. Sure, we may all still be hurtling toward a bleak and punishing future. But, just for now, can we indulge in a little enthusiasm for the upcoming summer? Can we finally dance in the sun, just a little bit?

What’s to look forward to? Summer is the fun season in these parts, and if you plan to spend the next six months only surfing or hiking or sitting on a blanket in the sunshine, no one’s going to blame you. But if you’re ready to mark up your calendar, buckle up. There’s plenty to do.

Last summer, Santa Cruz Shakespeare enjoyed a boffo full season at the Audrey Stanley Grove at DeLaveaga Park. And this year, SCS returns in a transitional year for the company’s artistic leadership. The intriguing slate of productions on tap at SCS include “The Book of Will,” a period piece set in Elizabethan England about two determined actors who save the work of this guy named Shakespeare. Also on tap is Shakespeare’s pointed comedy “The Taming of the Shrew” and the magisterial “King Lear,” with Santa Cruz’s greatest actor, Paul Whitworth, in the title role. The seal of the new season will be broken July 8.

The Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music will mark its 61st season in downtown Santa Cruz beginning July 30.
The Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music will mark its 61st season in downtown Santa Cruz beginning July 30. Credit: Via rr jones

The Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music is also headed back to the Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium for its customary two weeks in midsummer, beginning in late July. The festival’s robust programming features works of modern music from 17 composers, 14 of whom will be in Santa Cruz as composers-in-residence, including several world or U.S. premieres and pieces commissioned for the festival.

Cabrillo Stage, the musical-theater presenter which makes its home at Cabrillo College’s Crocker Theater, has a new artistic director, Andrea Hart, and will present a production of “The Hunchback of Notre Dame,” with a summer season that runs July 6-30.

The Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk is, of course, the symbol of all the allure of a summer in Santa Cruz. The Boardwalk is planning for visitors from all over the world, as usual. But it’s not yet announced what it plans for its live-music and movie series on the beach. That announcement is expected by the end of April.

The downtown parade, the highlight of Santa Cruz Pride, will take place June 3.
The downtown parade, the highlight of Santa Cruz Pride, will take place June 3. Credit: Via Batin Photography

While we’re speaking of the Boardwalk, Santa Cruz Pride gets a jump on the annual June celebration with a big bash in May. It’s a drag-show gala called“Queerlantis” and it’s set to land at the Boardwalk’s Sun Room. That will be followed a month later with Pride activities on the first weekend of June, including the Dyke/Trans March, the Pride Dance, and the Pride Parade and Festival.

One of the quintessential Santa Cruz events on the summer calendar is the annual Woodies on the Wharf car show featuring one of the country’s greatest collections of grand old wood-bodied surf wagons, with free admission. WoW takes place June 22-25 on the Santa Cruz Wharf. This is the thing to take out-of-towners to for maximum wow factor.

One of Santa Cruz's quintessential events, Woodies on the Wharf, comes to the Santa Cruz Wharf from June 22-25.
One of Santa Cruz’s quintessential events, Woodies on the Wharf, comes to the Santa Cruz Wharf from June 22-25. Credit: Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz

It’s pretty late in the summer, but the Sol Festival is slated to return to Roaring Camp Railroad in Felton, this year on Sept. 16 and 17. Performers and artists have yet to be announced.

The Redwood Mountain Faire takes place this year June 3 and 4 at Roaring Camp
It’s redwoods, live music, and cool vibes. What’s not to love at the Redwood Mountain Faire, taking place this year June 3 and 4 at Roaring Camp.

While we’re at Roaring Camp, let’s not forget about the San Lorenzo Valley’s biggest community event of the year, the Redwood Mountain Faire, taking place June 3 and 4, with great local acts like AJ Lee & Blue Summit, Hot Buttered Rum and many more.

The Juneteenth commemoration will be celebrated in Santa Cruz with a downtown party/festival June 17 at the London Nelson Community Center.

Independence Day is celebrated throughout the county with July 4 celebrations in Scotts Valley, Watsonville, Roaring Camp and Aptos. (Who can forget the World’s Shortest Parade?)

The madcap, anything-goes spirit of Wharf To Wharf returns July 23.
The madcap, anything-goes spirit of Wharf To Wharf returns July 23.

The great Santa Cruz-to-Capitola Wharf To Wharf Race is one enormous party along the race route. It happens on the morning of July 23.

The biggest party of the year for people in Pleasure Point is the Pleasure Point Street Fair, which takes place on a closed-off Portola Drive on June 24.

The Japanese Cultural Fair returns this year, with crafts, food and performing arts. The fair is June 10 at Mission Plaza Park, across from Mission Santa Cruz and Holy Cross Church.

No announcement yet on the delicious Santa Cruz Greek Festival, but it usually takes place in early September on Church Street in downtown Santa Cruz.

The Santa Cruz Symphony presents its annual summer pops concert, on June 10 at the Santa Cruz Civic with performances of many of the great themes from Hollywood, titled “Movie Night.”

Santa Cruz’s Jewel Theatre closes its penultimate season with a four-weekend run of the comedy “Over the River and Through the Woods” at the Colligan Theater, May 24-June 18. Actors’ Theatre will follow up its popular “8 Tens @ 8” festival, with “Best of the Rest,” a reading of the runners-up of the festival. That event takes place May 12-14 at Actors’ Theatre.

The Capitola Art & Wine Festival will reanimate the battered but not broken Capitola Esplanade. The two-day free festival will drop into Capitola Village Sept. 9 and 10.

The Scotts Valley Art, Wine & Beer Festival arrives Aug. 19 and 20, at Skypark in Scotts Valley.

File photo from the Watsonville Strawberry Festival
Credit: Via Watsonville Strawberry Festival

The Watsonville Strawberry Festival is ready to roll to celebrate the Pajaro Valley’s signature product Aug. 4-6 in downtown Watsonville.

The county’s clubs, venues and stages will all be bustling with live bands and other performances, many of them in summer-friendly outdoor spaces. Check out our “Down The Line” calendar for a curated list of the more intriguing shows to take place throughout the summer.

Outside Santa Cruz County, there are all kinds of justifications for a road-trip adventure. Outside Lands, the massive music festival that consumes San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park every summer, hits Aug. 11-13, featuring Foo Fighters, Megan Thee Stallion, Janelle Monae, Lana Del Rey, Kendrick Lamar and so many many more, even Shaquille O’Neal.

The Monterey Jazz Festival returns for its 66th year at the Monterey County Fairgrounds, with Herbie Hancock, Terence Blanchard, John Scofield, (Santa Cruz native) Donny McCaslin and scads more.

The eye-popping Monterey Car Week, including the one-of-a-kind Concours d’Elegance in Pebble Beach, happens Aug. 11-20. The week kicks off with a classic car show in downtown Monterey on Aug. 11.

In between all those magnificent events, well, the beaches are open, the biking and hiking trails never looked lovelier, outdoor dining and entertaining will be all the rage. The summer awaits. Do what your heart desires — except think about atmospheric rivers. Save that for a rainy day.

Real-time, up-to-date calendar for everything going on Santa Cruz County

Weekender: Wallace Baine gets you plugged in with what to know about this weekend and beyond

Down The Line: Your planing guide for all the biggest and best shows & gigs in Santa Cruz County

Wallace reports and writes not only across his familiar areas of deep interest — including arts, entertainment and culture — but also is chronicling for Lookout the challenges the people of Santa Cruz...