Afro-Cuban singer and drummer Bobi Céspedes opens Yerba Buena Gardens Festival at 1 p.m. June 26. (Courtesy photo)

Afro-Cuban singer and drummer Bobi Céspedes opens Yerba Buena Gardens Festival at 1 p.m. June 26. (Courtesy photo)

Yerba Buena Gardens Festival is back

Local artists play outdoor shows in 20th free summer series

After taking a break in 2020 due to the pandemic, the Yerba Buena Gardens Festival is coming back, with fun outdoor entertainment on Thursdays and Saturdays in The City from June through August.

The 20th season begins at 1 p.m. June 26 with Bobi Céspedes, the Bay Area’s matriarch of Cuban music, and DJ José Ruiz of KPOO and KPFA.

The concert is the first of many mid-day, admission-free events — music, theater, circus, dance, poetry and children’s programs — in the plaza at Mission between Third and Fourth streets.

“I am so excited to welcome everyone back to the beautiful gardens to experience our region’s rich cultural diversity and the immense fortitude of our local artists and performers. After a long period of isolation for many of us, Yerba Buena Gardens Festival remains a space for art and joy, welcoming people from all walks of life. There’s nothing that gladdens the heart and spirit more than celebrating the performing arts together under open skies,” said festival director Linda Lucero.

Highlights include: Kev Choice Ensemble (July 1),Rebirth Canal (July 8), YBG ChoreoFest (July 10, July 31, Aug. 14), Sentimiento y Manana (July 15), La Doña (July 17), LoCura (July 29), Andre Thierry (July 22), Ensemble Mik Nawooj (July 24), Lavay Smith & Her Red Hot Skillet Lickers (Aug. 5), AfroSolo Arts Festival in the Gardens (Aug. 7), Valerie Troutt (Aug. 12), Cabanijazz Project (Aug. 19), Cláudia Villela (Aug. 21), Native Contemporary Arts Festival Presents (Aug. 26) and Circus Bella’s “Humorous!” (Aug. 28)

Troupes and individuals appearing in ChoreoFest are Kiandanda Dance Theater/Byb Chanel Bibene, SAMMAY and RAWdance on July 10; Margaret Jenkins Dance Company and Shinichi Iova-Koga on July 31, and CALI & CO Dance/Christine Cali, Concept o4 and Fog Beast on Aug. 14.

Other YBG Festival programs include Poetic Tuesday’s “Two Languages/One Community: Artists Against Anti-Asian Violence” with Michael Warr, Chun Yu and Yeva Johnson at 12:30 p.m. July 13 as well as outdoor dance classes from 11 a.m. until noon on Tuesdays from June 26-Aug. 25.

The Children’s Garden Series at nearby Howard and Fourth streets offers 11 a.m. and 12:15 p.m. performances. They include percussion by Ka-Hon on July 16, Pi Clowns on July 23 and Red Panda Acrobats on July 30.


2021 Yerba Buena Gardens Festival

Where: Mission Street, between Third and Fourth streets, S.F.

When: June through August

Admission: Free


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