From its cradles in Foothill Square and the Eastmont Mall, the phenomenon has crossed the bay to San Francisco and along the coast. Now it’s all over the world.
It wasn’t until relatively recently that sideshows became the wild spectacle that earned them their negative reputation, Kennedy said. As high-performance vehicles entered the scene and shows became more stunt-centric, cities began to crack down, passing ordinances that banned participating or even watching one.
“It’s dangerous because they run cars, but with the absence of cars going around in circles, it’s really a big social gathering,” Kennedy said.
Sideshows have gained traction in Sonoma County over the past three years and have been mostly unruly here from the start, said Jose Quiroz, a member of the County’s Latin Rollers Car Club and LowRider Council. In his childhood in the 80s, young people peacock their cars through the streets of the city, which involved driving slowly and slowly rather than fast and furiously.
“My dad, my mom, they were all on a cruise,” Quiroz said. “Literally my car seat was attached to the back of a lowrider when I was a baby.
The LowRider Council, a coalition of previously rival auto clubs, opposes sideshows, Quiroz said. For him, respect and acceptance of lowriding was hard earned, which the younger generation takes for granted.
“There was a time in Santa Rosa, if you were in a lowrider car you would get pulled over immediately if you ran into a cop in the street. We have changed that, ”he said.
In August 2020, the city announced plans to convert one of its police cars into a lowrider called The Marylou, in hopes of building bridges with the community.
“When we go to an area, we want to respect the area, spend money on local vendors, support the community, have a good time and let people check our cars,” Quiroz said. But the sideshows “blow up the place – they whip their cars, they make it dangerous, they obstruct traffic.”
However, as someone born and raised in Santa Rosa, Quiroz said he understood that young people were looking for an outlet, something exciting to do.
When the conversation focuses solely on the damage caused by the events or the mess they leave behind, the creativity and ingenuity at the heart of shows are ignored or forgotten, Kennedy added. The young people who participate in the tradition are far from inexperienced – they are “bikers, they are mechanics, they fix their cars”.
“There is a profession behind this that they do not recognize. These kids could be like the next NASCAR pilots. Being able to perform in one of those cars, turning a car into an eight, it’s not an easy job, ”Kennedy said. He believes young people see it as a sport: potentially dangerous, but also fun, exhilarating and an opportunity to show off.
Sideshows “an opportunity” for the city
Santa Rosa City Council member Eddie Alvarez was in Sevastopol and the west on the night of September 16, Mexico’s Independence Day, helping his mother shut down the family store around the corner. When they walked out of the storefront for the developing sideshow, they were surprised by the large and diverse crowd.
“I saw all the races there. I saw all the ages there. I’ve seen families eat tacos and at the same time break their necks to watch, ”he said.
On Reddit, a Roseland resident also described the crowd: “I was there, chasing a burrito in a bathrobe. The people were calm, the area was commercial and other than the gunfire it was super peaceful. It struck me like an American moment, where people would come apart and come together as a community. “
Alvarez shared that he felt conflicted. It was incredibly dangerous, he admitted, and cars were tearing apart a major intersection. But the gathering also felt deeply human, the modern automotive equivalent of a Spanish matador performance. Finally, it was as if the children were just children.
“Ask me how long our young people haven’t done something that we consider dangerous,” he said.
Elected to city council at the end of 2020, Alvarez said he wanted to push the city to take a different approach to side shows than cracking down in a punitive manner, and finding a solution in collaboration with the community, the LowRider Council and the children who participate. in them. He hopes to deliver a sanctioned and regulated event, involving vendors and educational opportunities, that would host a controlled side show with spectators behind barricades.
“Why not make lemonade with lemons?” ” He asked.
The new board member is figuring out how to officially come up with the idea for the event and hopes to get the ball rolling by the end of the month. Possible locations include the Sonoma County Fairgrounds.
This harm reduction approach has been adopted by other cities, such as San Diego, with positive results. Kennedy said he brought forward similar proposals to create space for legal performances as the city of Oakland’s former cultural affairs commissioner, which were not passed.
“I think we need to stop criminalizing side shows and pouring money into law enforcement and overtime and invest that money in resources that train kids and then give spectators a place to come. socialize at a safe event, ”he said.
The LowRider Council supports the initiative, said Quiroz, who explained that it’s easy for leaders, lawmakers and law enforcement to forget what it’s like to be a young person.
“Sometimes we have to try to be a little more understanding, give them a safer outlet and show them a better way,” he said.