Groovy San Jose... Celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Summer of Love throughout the Bay Area

Posted March 31st, 2017

Article written by Courtney Peter 
Smart Meetings.com 


Photo Courtesy of KQED

Ingrained in Bay Area iconography to the point of cliche, the San Francisco hippie is no caricature. The vanguard figure emerged from a counterculture movement that bound artists, musicians, free thinkers and radicals into a community that ignited nationwide social change. The movement’s seminal season spanned 100 days in 1967— dubbed the Summer of Love—during which nearly 100,000 young dreamers and activists descended upon the city.

Beyond peace, drugs and free love, the counterculture represented a segment of society determined to build a better world through the power of hope and togetherness, yet deeply concerned about pervasive matters such as war, politics, race and women’s issues. Musicians including Big Brother and the Holding Company with Janis Joplin, The Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane and Jimi Hendrix played an essential role in spreading the message, as well.

Fifty years later, groups traveling to the Bay Area can explore museum exhibits, schedule specialty tours and visit hallowed sites that evoke the provocative, volatile and powerful history of the 1960s.

Counterculturalists might chafe at being cast in the lead role of so conventional a celebration as a golden anniversary. But to heed such objections would be to forfeit an opportunity to recognize the wide-ranging role the period played in shaping the Bay Area, from Silicon Valley’s cradle of innovation to the East Bay’s early activists to the North Bay’s musical pedigree.


Michael Parrish, Tom Clark, and Dan Orloff, from left, pose Tuesday, Nov. 24, 2015, in San Jose, Calif., on the site where the Grateful Dead performed their first concert 50 years ago. It was in a house that was later moved to nearby St. James Street to make way for the new City Hall. The group wants a plaque installed at the City Hall site to commemorate the event. (Josie Lepe/Bay Area News Group)

“The Summer of Love period had a large impact in helping to shape what is known of today as Silicon Valley,” says Kyle Schatzel, communications manager at Team San Jose. “It can be argued that the ideologies of the Beat Generation had a large influence on Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, who changed the paradigm for the way innovators in Silicon Valley operate.”

Team San Jose created a psychedelic scavenger hunt of local landmarks linked to the period’s musical identity. For example, City Hall Rotunda—containing 9,427 sq. ft. of event space—currently occupies the site of author Ken Kesey’s San Jose Acid Test party, where the Grateful Dead first performed under their now-famous name.

Sprawling Santa Clara County Fairgrounds, which hosted Northern California Folk Rock Festival in 1967 and 1968, can accommodate more than 30,000 daily visitors at its 150,000-square-foot complex. Legendary musicians such as The Rolling Stones have played the landmark 2,850- seat City National Civic venue.

San Jose offers groups a signature Silicon Valley campus-like feel and amenities befitting California’s third-largest city, including cultural attractions and major meeting sites such as San Jose McEnery Convention Center and SAP Center. Levi’s Stadium, another capacious event venue, sits nearby in Santa Clara.

The European-inspired AC Hotel San Jose Downtown, which opened in January—San Jose’s first new downtown hotel in more than a decade—adds 210 stylish guest rooms and 6,470 sq. ft. of meeting space.

Scientists from academically renowned Stanford University in Palo Alto were among those who conducted LSD experiments in the late ’50s and early ’60s. Groups can visit the university’s Cantor Arts Center and Rodin Sculpture Garden and use 7,050 sq. feet of meeting space at Four Seasons Hotel Silicon Valley in East Palo Alto.

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