Members of some of the participating organizations display their individual $2,177 checks while posing with a ceremonial giant check representing the entire $100,000 the Fog Fest earned this year. (Brendan Bartholomew/Special to S.F. Examiner)

Pacifica Fog Fest nets $100,000

Pacifica celebrates its own beach town culture every September with the Pacific Coast Fog Fest. And at a recent ceremony, the event’s proceeds were divvied up among the dozens of participating organizations that collectively form the backbone of civic and social life in the small city.

Fog Fest President Larry Passmore said 2015 was a record year for the event, with over 65,000 people attending. That’s more than the total population of Pacifica, which has fewer than 40,000 residents.

The Fog Fest netted about $100,000 this year, surpassing last year’s take, which was about $90,000. The funds were divided among 48 organizations whose volunteers staffed this year’s event, with each group receiving a check for $2,077.

That’s a significant increase, according to Sanchez Art Center Executive Director Cindy Abbott, who noted last year’s check was about $1,900. She said her group would use its share to provide free art exhibitions.

Unlike similar Bay Area festivals, which might use some paid employees, almost all Fog Fest labor is provided by volunteers from participating organizations.

Another distinction is the lack of outside food and beverage vendors. Fog Fest volunteer groups run all food and drink booths. One example this year was the Holy Cross Lutheran Church, which had Pastor Thomas A. Nibbe serving sausages with grilled onions in the hope of raising funds for a new church roof.

In many cases, participant organizations’ annual budgets are small enough that the $2,077 checks can make a big difference. Roy Earnest, treasurer of Pacifica’s Environmental Family, said his group has an annual budget of about $30,000.

Earnest said the group would use the Fog Fest money to pay for organizational costs, like liability insurance for projects to preserve trees in the Vallemar neighborhood and protect endangered bird habitats on Linda Mar Beach.

Rotary Club of Pacifica President Victor Spano said his group might use its check to fund a landscaping project beautifying a strip of bare earth on Oceana Boulevard, across the street from the popular Mazzetti’s Bakery in northern Pacifica.

Money and service weren’t the only things to celebrate at the check-distribution ceremony. The Fog Fest’s 65,000 attendees were well behaved and no incidents of crime were reported, according to Passmore.

Finances can be a big concern for many Pacifica groups, however. Vallemar Elementary School Parent-Teacher Organization President Charlotte Allen noted her 540-student school is underfunded, and the Fog Fest check would help defray the cost of a play structure the PTO recently purchased.

“We were in dire need of a play structure,” Allen said.

While Pacifica enjoys low crime rates and a lack of visible poverty, those who provide social safety net services in town have noted there is a lot of hidden need among the city’s senior, low-income and homeless populations.

Pacificans Care co-President Bruce Banco said his group provides financial support for some of those safety net organizations, such as the local Meals on Wheels operation and the Pacifica Resource Center. He said the Fog Fest funds would be included in those contributions.

Nonprofit groups are sometimes constrained by earmarks mandating certain funds only be used for specific purposes, Banco noted, but money from Pacificans Care comes with no strings attached.

“If you need to buy paperclips, buy paperclips,” Banco said.

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