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With fork in hand, Nikki Reyes and Tracey McGregor lead a group of about 14 friends down Mission Avenue to the next taste stop at the Taste of Oceanside, on Saturday.

‘Taste of Oceanside’ a Sample of a Revitalized Oceanside

Oceanside CA – By all accounts, the Taste of Oceanside, put on by MainStreet Oceanside, had a successful debut on Saturday selling out shortly after on-site ticket sales began. The events success is another indicator that the resurgence of downtown Oceanside is well underway.

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Oceanside City Council-member, Jerry Kern speaks at the ribbon cutting ceremony for the Mission Avenue Improvement project.

“This wouldn’t have happened in years past” said Oceanside City Council-member, Jerry Kern. “This event is five times larger than events like this held in downtown before and it shows that the downtown area is roaring back. ” continued the councilman “With the best restaurants, great new brew places, new events, people are staying in Oceanside and they are bringing visitors in. Downtown feels vibrant again. This wouldn’t have happened even two years ago.”

During a ribbon cutting ceremony commemorating the completion of the Mission Avenue Improvement Project, City Council-member Gary Felien applauded the turn around of downtown and the “virtuous cycle of prosperity” seen with the growth of downtown. “It takes creative ideas like this to bring people downtown.” said Felien.

Like the inaugural First Friday ArtWalk, “I had no idea these shops were here” was heard a lot by business owners in downtown.

Anita Lewis, artist and owner of ‘Art for Modern Life’ on Artist Alley said it was good PR for the downtown. “There were a lot of people who told me they didn’t even know that we were here.”

Reneta Lewis with her daughter, Anita who owns the 'Art for Modern Life' gallery

Reneta Lewis with her daughter, Anita who owns the ‘Art for Modern Life’ gallery

Lewis said there were a lot of the people visiting her gallery who were interested in her art but there were some rough edges to the event. The ‘Art for Modern Life’ gallery was a  “Sip Stop” for the Taste of Oceanside and the liquor license for the event required that all alcohol served at the event be consumed at the location they were dispensed. “We need to work things out a little better for next time. I was so busy keeping people from going out the door with their wine, I didn’t have time to speak with the people who were interested in my art.” continued Lewis “That’s what the first time is for, the first time is always an experiment.”

The event’s popularity was unexpected by some vendors who ran out of food and were scrambling to get more as people just kept lining up, with forks in hand, ready to sample their product.

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Rosie and Frank Alvarez with Anita’s Mexican Cuisine

The City’s Zero Waste team partnered with Main Street Oceanside and gave out a commemorative “Road to Zero Waste” stainless steel forks for the tasting. It’s estimated that people using the commemorative fork in place of plastic would eliminate over 15,000 plastic forks from going to the landfill in just the 4 hours of the event.

Rosie and Frank Alvarez with Anita’s Mexican Cuisine at 309 S. Coast Highway had a steady stream of people at their booth located on Artist Alley. “We’ve had lots of people and this event is a big community builder.”said Rosie. Frank added “LOTS of people.”

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(front) Palmqist Elementary School 5th grade students, Elisabeth Folkin Kailey Lane with Pamela Lambert, director of Nutrition Services at OUSD

A food vendor you might not associate with a “Taste” event was the Oceanside Unified School District. Pamela Lambert, the new director of Nutrition Services at OUSD said, “We wanted people to see what we are doing and show them our new theme ‘Livin’ la Vida Local’.” The panini sandwiches they were serving were made with fresh vegetables grown in the garden at Palmquist Elementary School. “Our pesto sauce is also made with the fresh veggies from the garden” said Pamela.

The event encompassed a large portion of downtown from the Tremont Bar and Grill, Dairy Queen and Harney Sushi on the west side to Nationwide Insurance (Sip Stop) and Mission Avenue Bar and Grill on the east. “It’s really nice the way they have it all sprawled out across town.” said Seth Lisenbee. Seth was visiting Oceanside from out of town with his wife for their thirteenth wedding anniversary. “We just stumbled upon the event and its been a great way to learn about the area.”

Kyle Knox a vendor with R&R Wine Marketing Inc. said,  “Awesome! It’s neat that there is something like this in Oceanside. The town feels so revitalized” Kyle continued,” I’ve poured almost two cases of wine in the first few hours.” Kyle said the ‘Taste of Oceanside’ has been a great way to introduce people to his wine, ‘The Barrel Blend’ from Napa Valley. “The best way to get people to buy my wine is to have them taste it. The taste sells it.” He had a lot of people wanting to buy a bottle on the spot but due to the liquor license, he could only tell people where it was available for purchase.

Knox, a former pro surfer and a former Oceanside resident is currently living in Imperial Beach. “Oceanside seems like it’s really becoming a business friendly place. I wish the town I’m living in now would be more like this.”