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The Glen Park Gum Tree Girls Festival 2022
A Perfect, Sunny Day in the Best Park in San Francisco

Since the Glen Park Neighborhoods History Project (GPNHP) was founded in 2014, we have been repeatedly gob smacked by the number of Glen Park district women of the past who, for various reasons over the past 160 years, strove to make a difference in their communities. It was time to celebrate the historic legacy of Glen Park Moxie!


The Glen Park Gum Tree Girls Festival 2022, was a free, community event for young and old alike. Held on Sunday, July 10, 2022 from 10:30 am to 3:30 pm, the festival was named in honor of three young housewives - Zoanne Theriault Nordstrom, Joan Seiwald, and Geri Arkush, now famously known as “The Gum Tree Girls.” In 1958, Minnie Straub Baxter had galvanized the neighborhood during the first Glen Park Freeway revolt. Then, between 1965 and 1970 and following the lead of their predecessor, the Gum Tree Girls rose up to fight back against San Francisco City Hall and the State of California Highway Department to stop construction of the “Circumferential Expressway,” a viaduct freeway that would have sliced through Glen Park and 70-acre Glen Canyon Park as a shortcut to the Golden Gate Bridge. Had it been constructed, the character of Glen Park would have been forever changed and the rugged open space of Glen Canyon, located in the very heart of San Francisco, would have become a concrete-laden gully. Glen Canyon Park could never have received the designation of Significant Natural Resource Area it was awarded in later years.

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The suggestion for the festival was offered in April 2021 by Mark Theriault. His mom, Gum Tree Girl Zoanne Nordstrom, had passed away earlier that year due to complications from COVID-19. He suggested a festival for the community could not only celebrate the legacy of his mom, the Gum Tree Girls, and all of historic women of the Glen Park district, but also help the community heal as it emerged from the pandemic by commemorating those who had been lost to COVID. Without fully understanding the immensity of the project at the time, the GPNHP happily agreed to lead the effort.


And an immense project it was! Certainly a far cry from the trope attributed to Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney of, "Jeepers, let's put on a show in the barn!" After 15 months of planning (with the aid of seasoned event planner Susie McKinnon), grant writing, fund raising, permit seeking, speaker searching, media hawking, hoop jumping, shortened deadlines, and countless sleepless nights over how it was all going to come together (compounded by our combined stage, sound, and tables vendor abandoning the festival just 10 days before the festival), the big day finally arrived! [click here to download the Festival Flyer featuring the beautiful art by Charlotte Theriault].


In the days leading up to the festival, the weather had been more dreary than typical summer days in San Francisco – foggy, damp, cold, wind gusts up to 35 mph and a wind chill in the mid-50s. Yet, as if ordained by the Glen Park women of the past (with support from Karl the Fog), July 10 opened to a brilliantly sunny, cloudless day with a light breeze and a midday temperature of 80 degrees! Given that July 11 returned to cold drippy dreariness, the weather alone was truly a remarkable outcome.

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An estimated 300 people attended the 6-hour event [click here to download the festival program]. The festival opened with a grand welcome from our able festival emcee, Ginger Murray. After opening comments by GPNHP Director Evelyn Rose, leaders of local neighborhood associations included Hilary Schiraldi, president of the Glen Park Association; Janet Tarlov, president of the Glen Park Merchants Association; and Rene Berger, director of Burnside Mural+. The next speakers represented our city's leadership: District 8 Supervisor Rafael Mandelman, Chief of the San Francisco Fire Department Jeanine Nicholson, and Director of the San Francisco Municipal Transit Agency, Jeffrey Tumlin. More inspiring words from the president of the League of Women Voters of San Francisco, Alison Goh, followed.

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Next, the families of the Gum Tree Girls shared their memories. As young children during those days of grassroots protest, nearly all had participated in what Kristen Arkush, daughter of Geri Arkush, describes as "low level civil disobedience." Their activities included attendance with their moms to meetings at City Hall where they were encouraged to "run wild" in the gallery so that the women's position would magically move from dead last on the agenda to next. To the frustration of highway engineers, from time to time they would uproot surveyor's flags from the proposed route of the freeway. Of special note, Gum Tree Girl Joan Seiwald joined the families on stage! Joan and all the family members received an extended round of cheers and applause from a grateful community!