Welcome, Grads: Merced's annual Cap & Town offers food, fun, celebration

jsmith@mercedsunstar.comMay 20, 2013 

— The weather was perfect for Merced's fifth annual Cap & Town event, dubbed "Merced's biggest outdoor celebration."

Friday's event honored all graduating students in the area and their families. Between 5 and 10 p.m., Mercedians of all ages gathered for food, music and dancing.

With more than 40 vendors, the block party is an opportunity for people to get to know various local businesses or join a local club, said Karen Baker, the event organizer.

"This event has really caught on," she said. "This year, we've brought in antique cars, which is new. And we have three full stages — so more and more music that appeals to all ages. We even have kid bands that are playing that have worked really hard."

The event seemed especially popular with high school students, many of whom were there for the first time.

Merced High School sophomore Raquel Mccullough said she came to the event after she heard people at her school talking about it.

"There were a lot of kids saying they're coming tonight. It's a block party. What's better than that in Merced?"

Yosemite High School senior Eduardo Ferreira said he had been looking forward to the event.

"It's really fun," he said. "It's a great experience to be a part of. I really get to be interactive with the whole community and become friends with a whole bunch of new people."

With two graduations at UC Merced this weekend, many of the area hotels were sold out, Baker said. "So we're able to have all the visitors come down and get the hospitality that Merced has to offer and get a feel of the community."

With three stages, the event catered to youth and adults.

At Bob Hart Square, several groups put on dance performances at the same time that a beer garden and music stage at the Partisan bar showcased musical acts.

With all the proceeds from the beer garden going to Playhouse Merced this year, co-owner of the Partisan, RC Essig, said he participates simply for the "love" of the event.

"It's a lot of hard work, but it's worth it in the end," he said. "Having the bands play out in front of everybody, I think it's a great opportunity for people to be exposed to the independent local music scene."

The city first put on the Cap & Town event in 2009 to celebrate the first UC Merced four-year graduating class and keynote speaker Michele Obama. Since then, the event has been expanded to include all graduating students in the area.

Reporter Joshua Emerson Smith can be reached at (209) 385-2486 or jsmith@mercedsunstar.com.

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