By Erik Chalhoub, Managing Editor

Last week, crews planted palm trees in the recently-constructed medians along Main Street in downtown Watsonville.

Immediately, people took to Facebook to express their disapproval.

“Lame … native trees people!” one user wrote on the Pajaronian’s Facebook page. “Our downtown needs more than palm trees, fast food restaurants, etc. … There are too many empty buildings,” wrote another.

A photo of the palm trees found its way to the “Remembering Watsonville” Facebook page, where the response was overwhelmingly negative.

Although I feel palm trees are overused as a landscape feature, I drove through downtown recently and must admit that it is a major improvement over the concrete and pavement wasteland that was there before. Yes, it feels more cramped driving down Main Street, especially with the widened sidewalks in certain areas, but isn’t that what a downtown is supposed to be, more pedestrian-friendly and less of a thoroughfare for heavy vehicle traffic?

Palm trees and widened sidewalks are not going to create a bustling downtown Watsonville on their own. But I have to agree with AC Smith, who posted on our Facebook page pointing out that this isn’t “Extreme Makeover: Downtown Edition.”

“Certainly a few trees in the center median don’t make downtown a destination location, but taking a baby step to ease the bluntness of the hardscape is a constructive move,” he wrote. “Do we need anchor businesses downtown? Oh, hell yes. But wishing ain’t gonna make it so. Lots of steps along the way to create a desirable environment for a business looking for a place to locate, and a destination for shoppers and others.”

Well said.


I hope everyone had a safe and enjoyable Memorial Day weekend.

On Saturday, I was in Santa Clara on an invite from California’s Great America to experience its new festival, “Red, White & Brews.” The Americana-themed event featured a variety of food, with more than 25 regional craft brews, Northern California wines, Bay Area bands, outdoor games and entertainment for children.

The food included smoked chicken drumsticks, barbecued pulled pork sandwiches, tombstone sliders with shaved brisket and more. I even tried something that I never imagined I ever would: skewered chicken hearts wrapped in bacon. It was surprisingly tasty.

Although pricey ($25 for six “tastings,” or $5.99 for one, in addition to regular park admission), there’s no denying that the food here is on a whole other level compared to regular theme park fare. Coupled with a lively atmosphere, you feel like you are at a high-end food festival and almost forget that you are at a theme park filled with screaming guests on thrill rides.

Red, White & Brews continues June 3-4, and is a great way to spend a weekend without having to travel too far from Santa Cruz County.


Erik Chalhoub can be reached at [email protected] or 761-7353.

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