El Cajon celebrates community, diversity and patriotism with annual street fair

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“We’re selling pizza by the slice down the block,” a young boy says to passersby on the crowded main street of downtown El Cajon as the aroma of sizzling food wafts overhead. Wrapped up in May Gray, the chilly Saturday afternoon hosts young and old alike at the America on Main Street celebration on May 19.

On one end of Main Street, food carts lined the sidewalks and a large children’s slide worms its way up the skyline. The drifting current of the crowd led past community booths, music stages and tabling political candidates.

“We’re selling pizza by the slice down the block,” a young boy says to passersby on the crowded main street of downtown El Cajon as the aroma of sizzling food wafts overhead. Wrapped up in May Gray, the chilly Saturday afternoon hosts young and old alike at the America on Main Street celebration on May 19.

On one end of Main Street, food carts lined the sidewalks and a large children’s slide worms its way up the skyline. The drifting current of the crowd led past community booths, music stages and tabling political candidates.

East County Chamber of Commerce President Eric Lund said the annual festival is a community highlight.

“It’s awesome because it allows the entire community to come out and have a great day together,” said Lund. “It’s all about bringing people together.”

And America on Main Street really does bring the community together. Every facet of El Cajon was represented, from the various music artists providing rhythm and beat atop the multiple performing stages to the falafel stands in the food court and the ‘local heroes’ picture boards posted around the carnival for photo opportunities.

Lund said the event, which stretched well past sundown, attracted locals and visitors alike.

“We have immigrant families here, we have local San Diegans who’ve lived their whole lives here, we have people who come in from out of the area who come in and enjoy it,” he said. “Almost everything is free and that’s the whole idea – the city really likes to allow the community to come together.”

Among the booths and tables of local businesses was health group Fit4Drums, engaging the youngest festival goers in a drum cardio lesson. Alessandra Eck led a dozen children in the activity, dancing, drumming and burning calories.

Also present were a number of community members running for local offices. The leisurely pace of the carnival allowed people time to stop and talk with candidates who will be showing up on the June 5 primary ballot.

Dressed in full uniform, a troop of sea cadets from the Challenger Division and Training Ship Columbia manned a fundraising booth to raise money for Wreaths Across America, which will lay wreaths in military cemeteries across the country like Arlington and Fort Rosecrans.

Lt. j.g. Shannon Ward, commanding officer of the division, said the cadets were contributing to the event on multiple levels. First and foremost, she said, they aimed to sponsor wreaths for their participation in Wreaths Across America.

“It’s a very humbling and solemn experience for the cadets,” said Ward said of the wreath laying.

But beyond the fundraising, the young men plugged some community service time as well.

“The cadets were here at noon helping the vendors set up so it gives them a sense of pride and giving back to the community,” she said.

Ward said part of the intent in coming out to America on Main Street was to raise awareness about the troop and attract future members.

“It’s a fantastic program, the training opportunities afforded to the kids are unbelievable,” she said. “There is no other program like it in the United States.”

Currently, the troop is drilling at Admiral Baker but will be moving to El Cajon Valley High School in the fall.

This is America on Main Street’s fourth year celebrating diversity and patriotism in El Cajon.

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