This years Israel festival to be held in SBC Park, home of the Giants

What do Barry Bonds and Israel have in common? This year they have the same home address: SBC Park.

With more revelers anticipated to show up for the annual “Israel in the Gardens” festival than Yerba Buena Gardens could handle, the festival has tentatively changed its name to “Israel in the Ballpark” and made the stadium at McCovey Cove its new home base.

After drawing between 6,000 and 7,000 people two years ago and 10,000 last year, festival director Caron Tabb anticipates perhaps 17,000 — maybe even 20,000 — will attend this year’s event on Sunday, June 6, which is put on by the Israel Center of the S.F.-based Jewish Community Federation.

“Yerba Buena was very crowded. Although it was a wonderful facility and a fantastic location, it was getting too small for us. So we went out to look for a new venue, which is not so easy, because this is a huge event,” said Tabb.

“You can’t close down the streets and you want it to be a grassy area and somewhat enclosed, so you can feel a sense of gathering rather than a street festival.”

Tabb anticipates that many of the factors that make SBC Park (née Pac Bell Park) one of the finest in Major League Baseball will also work in the favor of a large outdoor festival. The park features large amounts of indoor space, which could be utilized for a film festival or similar activity.

SBC also comes equipped with several playgrounds, and the indoor batting cages utilized by Giants’ players (including, as Tabb notes, the ubiquitous Bonds) will be open to festivalgoers. And, yes, there will be garlic fries.

The park is easily reachable by both public transportation and automobile, and it is equipped with acres of parking. Finally, from a security standpoint, SBC is vastly superior to Yerba Buena Gardens, an open area where anyone could wander in willy-nilly.

Tabb hopes to land several corporate sponsors to make up for the price difference between renting out a Major League stadium and a city park. At a Tuesday walkthrough attended by roughly 40 Jewish community members, Tabb also noted that festival planners are considering a “nominal” entrance fee. To volunteer or assist in any way, contact [email protected],

Working with the athletic theme — and conceding that Israelis are not known for their baseball prowess — Tabb mentioned that festival organizers are bandying about the idea of bringing in Israeli soccer players for a demonstration and, possibly, a clinic.

The festival is also planning “massive PR” aimed at attracting young adults to the festival and an after-party.

One person who is sure to not attend, however, is the aforementioned Bonds, or Felipe Alou, Jason Schmidt or any of the Giants. The G-men take on Colorado in Denver at 12:05 p.m. that day.

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi is the managing editor at Mission Local. He is a former editor-at-large at San Francisco magazine, former columnist at SF Weekly and a former J. staff writer.