Noe Valley Voice October 2010

Don’t Be Scared.  Though 24th Street may become overrun with wildly costumed diminutive dancers (and even demons) demanding sugar on Oct. 31, do not panic. Look for a moment when they’re pausing for re-hydration, and like our brave photographer, shoot away!  2009 Photo by Pamela Gerard

Halloween Fair Foretells New Spirit at Upper Noe Rec Center

By Heather World

Budget cuts are scary, but they’re no match for the ghosts and ghouls who will fill Upper Noe Recreation Center at its first Halloween Fun Fair Sunday, Oct. 31, one of many events the park’s newly invigorated community partner hopes to hold.

Children, dogs, and their parents are invited to enjoy the carnival atmosphere from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Treats like cotton candy and popcorn will be for sale, but the rest of the event is free, says Alexandra Torre, who has led the host group Friends of Noe Valley Recreation Center for the past six years.

In addition to Halloween-themed activities like face-painting and costume parades, organizers plan to have games on the field like sack races and target practice (weather permitting), as well as indoor games like musical chairs, Torre says. Roving musicians will keep things lively.

“It would be great to see 200 people there,” Torre says. “We’re hoping that bringing these events will generate more community interest and involvement.”

That involvement will soon be necessary to influence programming as well as Friends-sponsored activities at the center. In August, a Recreation and Park Department reorganization centralized program planning.

Site scheduling has been left to a slimmed-down staff guided by “community recreation councils” made up of seven area residents, including one youth. Details remain hazy, but a department spokesman said the councils should be in place by March and will most likely meet monthly. Community organizations will play a key role in determining who will serve on the local council, he said.

Joe Scott is Upper Noe’s new facility coordinator, the staffer responsible for all site programming and for convening the panel. “We’ll draw a one-mile radius around this facility, reach out to the public, and let them know what we’re doing,” he says.

Whatever is chosen will be taught be part-time “recreation professionals who are expert in their field,” according to a press release by Rec and Park General Manager Phil Ginsburg.

In keeping with the new model, what was once Upper Noe’s staff of four that coached, taught, and supervised is now Scott, who manages day-to-day operations, and Rex Biteng, whose primary job at Rec and Park is to coordinate the city’s waterfront sports. The two men have overlapping hours to keep the center open as much as possible, but even so Upper Noe will be open only Tuesday through Saturday. Friends has been lobbying the city to open it up on Sundays, says volunteer Kate Haug.

“We really see Sunday as a day where you could program for working adults and families,” she says.

Haug has taken a leading role in Friends, helping renew the group’s momentum and widen its reach.

Besides pulling together the Halloween fair, Friends worked with organizers of San Francisco’s annual literary celebration Litquake to bring a reading by women authors to the center on Oct. 7 (“Feminine Wiles,” 7 to 9 p.m.).

Haug is also working to make the gardening days that happen every second Saturday amenable to families. She hopes to program an hour of music followed by story time.

“We’re trying to make it easy for families to come and have one parent vol­unteer and one enjoy the rec center,” she says.

Evidence of the work by Ladybug Gardeners, as the Saturday group is known, can be seen in the new fencing, new birdhouses, and birdfeeders around the site. The Oct. 9 Ladybug meeting will be held at 10 a.m. at Café XO, 1799 Church Street, to create a plan for the park to be presented to the city.

Haug says she hopes park users will also start to recognize the potential of the site as a rental. The main interior room has a stage, a sound system, a movie screen, and a kitchen.

“We always felt as a group that it hasn’t been promoted enough,” Torre says.

The Friends website has instructions and a link to the Rec and Park rental application. Meanwhile, neighborhood residents or merchants who’d like to help with the Halloween party should contact


Upper Noe Recreation Center is located at 295 Day Street, at Sanchez. The new hours are Tuesdays to Fridays, 9:30 a.m. to 9 p.m., and Saturdays, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Registration for Fall II activities starts Oct. 2. Visit or the rec center itself to register for any class across the city. Members of the public who are interested in suggesting programs or serving on Upper Noe’s community recreation council are encouraged to call Joe Scott at 415-970-8061 or email him at and copy Friends of Noe Valley Recreation Center at