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Menlo Park gets its own nightspot

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Menlo Park gets its own nightspot

By  Vlae Kershner

It’s gotten harder for Menlo Park residents to complain there’s nothing to do after dark.

The Guild Theatre at 949 El Camino Real has been reopened as a place for live entertainment. The single-screen movie theater opened in 1926, became famous for midnight showings of “Rocky Picture Horror Show,” and transitioned into an art house. But business declined with the dominance of the multiplex and it finally closed amid widespread regrets in September 2019.

This story appeared in the March edition of Climate Magazine.

The nonprofit Peninsula Arts Guild stepped in to buy the property and won all necessary approvals from the city in a whirlwind 4½ months, said Arts Guild President Drew Dunlevie, a Menlo Park resident.  “We aren’t developers, just residents who wanted the project. We told the City Council, ‘If you want it, take it.’ To their credit, they took it.”

Construction was completed within 2½ years of the closure despite the pandemic and supply chain disruptions.

The Venue Debuts

About 150 supporters attended the reopening night event in late February. Appropriately, the first performer was a Menlo Park resident, singer-songwriter Reid Genauer, formerly of Assembly of Dust. He called it “a palatial and wonderful new venue.”

The main performer was Wobbly World, a seven-piece Bay Area international music band led by “Segovia on acid” electronic flamenco guitarist Freddy Clarke, who took the state-of-the-art Meyer Sound system up to high decibels.

Dunlevie thanked the crowd.  “Silicon Valley gets a lot of s— with the TV show but there is so much philanthropy here.” More than 30 donors, mostly couples, contributed more than the $35 million needed for the renovation.

The outlines of the old movie house are still visible, but with three levels instead of one. Interior designer Ken Fulk retained the classic look with touches like a chandelier in the shape of trumpets. The main level includes two dance floors as well as seating, the control panel, and a disability seating area. The mezzanine has seating and an open area. Both levels have full bars.

Décor elements include burgundy plush seats, old-style lamps, and brass railings. Still to arrive was a massive burgundy main-stage curtain and side wall curtains, somewhere in the supply chain. Capacity ranges from around 200 for all-seated shows to about 500 for standing room only. The newly dug-out basement houses an elaborate green room for performers with a big-screen monitor, lounge seating, and a washer/dryer.

Local Entertainment

Dunlevie said all types of music would be booked. “We’ll try anything.” The idea is to provide Peninsula residents with a convenient alternative to San Francisco venues like the Fillmore. “We love those venues, we’re just tired of having to go for everything.”

In March, the first show open to the public featured Grammy-winning jazz pianist Robert Glasper. It drew more than 350 people from as far away as Los Angeles, Oakland and San Francisco, Dunlevie said. The highest ticket prices during that first month were for Three Dog Night, booked for two weekend nights, appropriate for the “One Is the Loneliest Number” vintage rock band.

While the Arts Guild puts on only live events, the space also will be usable for media presentations once projectors arrive. For example, it could be rented out to film festivals and pay-per-view sports events. The Guild has hired an experienced general manager in Tom Bailey, a Stanford graduate who has worked at the Fillmore and other local venues and was most recently GM at the Capitol Theatre in Port Chester, NY.

The goal is to operate at cash-flow neutral or better based on ticket and bar sales. Still, “If we need to raise a few bucks, we’ll be able to do it,” Dunlevie said.

The theater has never had any dedicated parking, but surface parking is available in downtown plazas within two blocks. Dunlevie expects many customers to stroll over from downtown restaurants, and others to walk from the nearby residential neighborhoods, or take Caltrain or rideshares.

For the schedule and ticket information, go to

Photos! Mardi Gras returns to Downtown Redwood City

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Photos! Mardi Gras returns to Downtown Redwood City

Sue Lehr Mitchell, vice president of the Redwood City Downtown Business Group, loves planning parties. And what better way to promote and support local businesses during a traditionally slow time — not to mention the Covid interruption — than to put on the granddaddy party of them all.

“It has been a dream of mine for a long time to bring Mardi Gras to the Peninsula.” says Mitchell.

So, after a one-year hiatus, the Mardi Gras Carnival returned to downtown Redwood City on Feb. 19. Locals were invited to put on their best beads and outfits, dine at open restaurants, specialty food booths, sip on a “hurricane” and boogie to the music of Al Lazard & the World Street Players; Howard Wiley Project; MJ’s Brass Boppers; and Grammy-nominated soul accordionist Andre Thierry. Master of Ceremonies Donald Lacy and DJ Marc Stretch kept things lively, in between the live bands.

Photos! Menorah lit in Redwood City to celebrate Hanukkah

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Photos! Menorah lit at Hanukkah Festival in Redwood City

The 12th annual Hanukah Festival, organized by Chabad MidPen of Redwood City, was celebrated Dec. 5 in Courthouse Square. The attendees enjoyed food, entertainment and games which were available preceding the lighting of the menorah by State Senator Josh Becker.  The menorah was wrapped in handmade scarves, mittens and hats to be given out to homeless people.

“Hanukah is a beautiful holiday,” said Rabbi Levi Potash. “It represents religious liberty and tolerance for all. We light the menorah which is light, and light is a symbol of goodness, wisdom and kindness.”

Photos! Hometown Holidays lights up Courthouse Square

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Photos! Hometown Holidays lights up Courthouse Square

Accompanied by parents or grandparents, happy kids with visions of sugar plums dancing in their heads thronged downtown Redwood City Saturday, Dec. 4, as the annual Hometown Holidays event returned to Courthouse Square. The 15th annual celebration began at 10 a.m. and included a full day of fun—music, food, arts and crafts for sale, carnival rides and a chance to roll around in a snow lot. Crowds then gathered along Broadway to watch a parade that included costumed reenactors from the Bethlehem AD tableau, school kids, a lighted SamTrans bus, a marching band and other units, followed by the arrival of Santa Claus on a float. As darkness descended, the lighting of the Courthouse Square holiday tree provided the grand finale.

The merriment wasn’t over, though.  Shortly after Hometown Holidays ended, the Caltrain Holiday Train rolled into the Redwood City train station, glowing with thousands of lights. Families got a chance to see Santa, Frosty and other characters and listen to live music, as well as to drop off a toy donation for the Marines’ Toys for Tots program and the Salvation Army, which provided the train’s brass band.

Millbrae Art & Wine Festival returns to Broadway

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Millbrae Art & Wine Festival returns to Broadway for its 50th anniversary

A Peninsula event is turning 50 and everyone is invited to the party. The Millbrae Chamber of Commerce’s 50th Millbrae Art & Wine Festival will return to downtown along Broadway this Labor Day weekend, with a host of activities planned for Sat.-Sun., Sept. 4-5 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. Admission is free.

The festival will take place on Broadway—located one block west of El Camino Real—between 200 Victoria Ave. and 979 Meadow Glen Ave., the Chamber said.

Festivities will include gourmet food, alcoholic/non-alcoholic drinks, live music by Gary Pellegrini’s Band coupled with a Classically Cool Car Show (in the parking lot on Broadway’s 200 block) and handcrafted works for sale by 300 artisans.

Other festival highlights will include a Kids’ Zone (900 block of Broadway at Meadow Glen Ave.), an organic and green products showcase, artisan specialty treats, home and garden exhibits and health and wellness displays, according to the Chamber.

“In an effort to keep our festival attendees, volunteers, artists, sponsors, vendors and staff safe during the event, face masks must be worn at festival booths and in all enclosed areas and crowded spaces,” stated Chamber officials.

Anyone wishing to volunteer can contact the Chamber at For more info about the festival, click here.

Local feline wins high-five honors

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A Redwood City cat who was transformed by training from a gun-shy semi-feral into quite a pussycat has won top prize in a national competition aimed at helping shelter cats become adoptable.

Matilda, a 2-plus-year-old tuxedo cat who came to live at Whis-purr Rescue, Inc.  in March 2019, has been named the Grand Prize Winner in the Third Annual Cat Pawsitive National High-Five Day Contest. Matilda’s paw-erful performance scored a $5,000 grant for Whis-purr Rescue, which will also receive personal consultation training with Jackson Galaxy, well-known as a cat behavior expert who hosts the Animal Planet show “My Cat From Hell.”

Lucy Brock, co-founder and rescue director of the center at 346 El Camino Real, says Matilda is just one of the shelter’s 27 cats who have benefitted since they started Galaxy’s training method in January 2020. “There’s been so much change in these cats’ lives since we started,” she says. “It’s just amazing.”

The cats have been learning to do “behaviors”—not to be confused with “tricks”—such as ringing bells, spinning around, playing a piano, “nose touches,” and sitting up, in addition to “high-fiving” with an outstretched paw.

This year’s Cat Pawsitive contest kicked off March 22, and Galaxy selected the top 25 high-five finalists for the public to vote on from April 8 to 14. Among the feline few was Matilda, whose bipartite bell-ringing/high-five combo was posted online for all to see.

Whis-purr Rescue staff and supporters pushed to get out the vote for the local girl.  Matilda’s clever bell-ringing high-five won 4,997 votes, according to a news release from the organizers, who say the contest celebrates the success of the life-saving Cat Pawsitive initiative of The Jackson Galaxy Project, a program of  Greater Good Charities.

The initiative aims to save the lives of shelter and rescue cats by increasing their adoption rates. Shelter staff and volunteers are taught how to implement Galaxy’s positive reinforcement training for cats and includes “a signature move—teaching them to high-five.” To see Matilda, go here, and also the semifinalists here.

Matilda and her sister Moxie and brother Maverick were rescue cats who came to Whis-purr from Half Moon Bay at about three months old. All three were “pretty feral and didn’t want to have anything to do with people,” Brock says.

Volunteer trainer Talia Martin can’t have cats of her own (her husband is allergic) so she’s happy to spend hours at the shelter training a dozen cats. Their behavior and reactions, down to body language, posture and making eye contact, have been recorded in a binder since the training started.

Gradually, curiosity—or perhaps the scent of treats—got the best of shy or invisible cats who began to come down from cat trees to train on the floor with Brock, Martin or volunteer Sydney Leung. One of the cats wouldn’t come close enough to be petted, Martin recalls. Now he grabs her hand.

Whis-purr Rescue picked up a cat called Ryder who was going to be euthanized at another shelter because he was “too feral,” Brock says. “We couldn’t pet him. And if you went to him, he’d run. And if you did stay, he’d whack you.” So she was quite surprised one day while training another cat when Ryder came weaving in and out between other cats, rolled around and started purring.

Brock wants to get more tips from Galaxy about moving Ryder to a higher lovability level. “We want to get him homed,” she says. “It’s great in this (training) room, but we need to be able to translate it into a home environment.”

A shelter cat, she adds, isn’t the “yippy skippy cat that’s going to come and get right up on your lap,” and it takes effort to bring out the pussycat within. “They’re becoming more adoptable every day,” Brock says. “And I’m not in a hurry. I just want to make sure they get the right home.”

Photo of high-fiving Matilda credited to Greater Good Charities

North Fair Oaks clinic to offer COVID-19 vaccinations weekly starting Sunday

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No-appointment vaccine clinic in North Fair Oaks starts Sunday thanks to private-public partnership

Thanks to a new public-private partnership, the COVID-19 vaccine clinic in North Fair Oaks will continue to operate on a weekly basis, with enhancements, starting this Sunday.

The NFO clinic, which will offer a more predictable schedule as well as drive-through and walk-up registration without an appointment, will be held Sundays between 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. at Fair Oaks Health Center, 2710 Middlefield Road.

The new partnership involves San Mateo County, Dignity Health, Sequoia Healthcare District and the city of Redwood City. Their goal is to provide reliable vaccine access to a neighborhood that was among the County’s hardest hit by the COVID-19 virus.

“Dignity Health and the city of Redwood City will assume most of the operational functions of the site while Sequoia Healthcare District provides funding,” said the County, which will continue to assist with outreach in English and Spanish, including door-to-door canvassing.

“From the beginning, we’ve said that our comeback depends on all of us, and that also means it depends on all of us working together to meet residents where they are at,” said Supervisor Warren Slocum, whose Fourth District includes North Fair Oaks.

Bill Graham, president of Dignity Health Sequoia Hospital, said the partnership will eliminate barriers to vaccinations for local residents, “many of whom have difficulty accessing high-volume vaccination sites due to work schedules and access to transportation, or they lack the technology to book appointments online.”

Redwood City Mayor Diane Howard also lauded the collaboration, adding, “We are all eager to welcome some level of normalcy back into our lives, and these vaccination clinics will be instrumental in getting us there.”

Learn more about vaccination opportunities in San Mateo County here.

Photo courtesy of San Mateo County

San Mateo Public Library locations to open to public May 3

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All three San Mateo Public Library locations will open to the public for browsing, holds pickup and limited computer use starting May 3.

Patrons are encouraged to limit their stay to 60 minutes, and face coverings and social distancing guidelines are required at all times.

“In-person reference will be available on the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd floors,” the Library system said. “Other services include magazine checkout, wi-fi, and limited study tables (one person per table). The Friends of the Library bookstore will be open.”

Last week, San Mateo County Libraries reopened most of its libraries with modifications for the first time since the pandemic began in March 2020.

All Redwood City Public Library locations are currently closed, but all locations offer Curbside Pickup services.

Photo courtesy of San Mateo Public Library

Bicycle Sunday returns to Cañada Road on May 2

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Bicycle Sunday to resume on Cañada Road

Bicycle Sunday, which allows only non-motorized activities on a 3.8-mile segment of Cañada Road in Woodside along Crystal Springs Regional Trail, will resume Sunday, May 2.

The section of Cañada Road between Highway 92 and immediately north of the Filoli entrance will be closed to cars and motorcycles from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. Activities like walking, jogging, bicycling, hiking and roller-skating are allowed.

“The Filoli entrance gate will be accessible to northbound traffic,” according to San Mateo County Parks. “Road barricades and park staff will be present to redirect motorized traffic and assist Bicycle Sunday participants.”

The program occurs every Sunday on non-holiday weekends and is funded by the San Mateo County Parks Foundation.

For more information, visit here.

Photo courtesy of San Mateo County Parks

Farmers’ markets in Redwood City, San Mateo set to reopen

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Farmers markets in Redwood City, San Mateo set to open

The Redwood City Kiwanis Farmers Market, located in the 500 block of Arguello Street near Sequoia Street, is reopening Saturday, May 1. The market, the oldest and largest on the Peninsula, will continue Saturdays from 8 a.m. until noon through Nov. 27.

In San Mateo, the 25th Avenue Farmers’ Market returns next week. The market, located at 194 W 25th Ave., runs May through mid October, rain or shine, every Tuesday from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m.

Other farmers markets locally include the San Carlos Farmers Market, which operates Sundays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the Industrial Arts District on Bayport Avenue and Varian Street, near Devil’s Canyon Brewing Company and wineries Cuvee, Flying Suitcase, Russian Ridge, and Domenic.

The Belmont Farmers’ Market runs yearround on Sundays at El Camino Real and O’Neal Street from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Photo credited to the 25th Avenue Farmers’ Market

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