Celebrating East Sac’s neighbor-led and supported Pops in Park

East Sacramentans understand the power of a tight-knit community, and the benefits that events like Pops in the Park bring to businesses and residents alike.

Pops in the Park has been a mainstay of East Sacramento community life for 30 years. Founded in 1991 by Councilmember Josh Pane and an assortment of go-getting community organizers, the festival has a fundraising twist and a strong emphasis on forging social cohesion through music, food, and sponsorship deals with local businesses. Councilmember Steve Cohn – credited with taking the event to new heights of success – and Vice Mayor Jeff Harris have been the principal custodians in recent years, bringing free, quality entertainment to Sacramentans on every Saturday in June.

History of Pops in the Park

Since 1995, Pops in the Park has been funded by a combination of sponsorship, advertising, and the proceeds from food and beverage sales during the events. After covering the cost of putting on shows, revenues are used to help the wider community, funding improvements to neighborhoods and parks, and providing youth athletic scholarships.

Harris’ team includes Jocelyn Navarro, Stephanie Kauss, and David Gonsalves. District Director Gonsalves, who has been working on the Pops in the Park project since 2015, describes it as East Sacramento’s annual ‘chance to enjoy the summer nights and be with each other.’

Discussing its special importance to locals, and his vision for continuing the traditions of community assembly and social bonding, Gonsalves observes:

“We lead busy, complicated lives. With Pops in the Park, we can forget that, come together with friends and neighbors, and meet new people. We used to have the village square where we could commune with our neighbors. Pops in the Park is a modern version of that. We come out to meet with old friends — and make new ones.”

While the specifics vary each year, the basic format is beautifully simple. From 6-9pm on every Saturday in June, concert-goers enjoy free access to live music performed by an assortment of local acts. And while attendees are welcome to bring their own refreshments, lawn chairs, umbrellas, blankets, and anything else they might need for a picnic in the park, they’re also encouraged to purchase food and drink onsite from local vendors, with proceeds going to neighborhood projects.

A Community Affair

Event organizers cite the critical role played by local companies in supporting Pops in the Park. Rich Cazneaux has been sponsoring the festival for over 15 years. David Gonsalves notes the ways in which civic and business interests align to keep events like this thriving and working for the communities which host them.

“Pops in the Park is driven by the community,” says Gonsalves, “without folks Rich Cazneaux and others, it wouldn’t be possible. This truly is an East Sac thing – a real community event in which people come together to make it happen, and then enjoy the fruits of their labor together.”

Those fruits have nourished a staggering number of local projects, including:

  • McKinley Playground Rebuild
  • Elvas Parkway Pedestrian and Bicycle Improvement
  • ‘Welcome to East Sacramento’ signage
  • Youth athletic scholarships for River Park and East Sac baseball and soccer leagues
  • Glenn Hall tennis court resurfacing project
  • New slide at Glenn Hall Pool
  • Reconstruction of Sutter’s Fort Pond
  • Reconstruction of the McKinley Park tennis courts
  • Expansion of the McKinley Park jog trail into the panhandle
  • Handicapped accessible drinking fountains at McKinley Park and East Portal Park
  • Construction of new playgrounds at East Portal Park, Glenn Hall Park

Although the series was delayed in 2020 and 2021, Pops in the Park promises to be back in 2022, stronger than ever, with artists, sponsors, organizers, and the public ready to come together once more to deliver the best that East Sacramento has to offer.

NB – Quotes have been edited, re-ordered, and paraphrased for clarity and impact.