The city is gearing up for its Fiftth annual Cap & Town event, which officials call “Merced’s biggest outdoor celebration.”
The event honoring graduating students in the area, along with their families, kicks off at 5 p.m. Friday on Main Street between M Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Way.
“It is a good excuse to have a street party for the community because we deserve it,” said city spokesman Mike Conway. “We have a whole lot of good kids out there who worked hard academically.”
The all-ages event is expected to draw roughly 10,000 people throughout the night and features a range of events, including a pie-eating contest, a car show, musical acts, dance performances and a photo booth.
“I love seeing the downtown full of people and full of life,” said Kurt Winbigler, co-owner of Coffee Bandits on Main Street. “Seeing all the different young people is really exciting. Not to mention, it’s great for business.”
With dozens of vendors, the event is an opportunity for residents to get to know community groups, such as the Rollin’ Roulettes Derby Girls or the Boys & Girls Club of Merced County.
To boost the festive atmosphere, the city is requiring businesses and community groups with booths to include some kind of game or craft component, such as face painting. At the same time, downtown businesses look forward to the street fair as a way to get exposure.
“I expect a big crowd of parents and kids to come out,” said Eddie Beltran, co-owner of Cue Spot Billiards on Main Street. “It’s a day that the students get to know the downtown. We try to treat them good and get them to come back in.”
Several events will be held at different locations, including dance performances at Bob Hart Square by Denisa’s School of Dance, Make it Happen and the Tahitians Dance Company.
A city-run community stage in front of the Merced Theatre will feature local bands, including No Where Near, Karma, Fallen Angels, Night Groove and Acronym. A beer garden and music stage will be outside the Partisan bar, starting at 5 p.m. Musical acts include Deriva, Homebrew and White Glove Service.
“It brings all of education and the town closer together,” said Winbigler, who graduated from UC Merced. “If we’re trying to keep people in this town after they graduate, having them included in what’s going on is a big part of that.”
The city held the first Cap & Town in 2009 to welcome first lady Michelle Obama to Merced and celebrate institutions and groups, including UC Merced’s first four-year graduating class.