July 19 2002

From Mariachis to the Beatle Fair

By John Philip Wyllie

As the granddaughter of Mexican-American immigrants, Lakeside’s Carmen Salmon remembers the many visits years ago to her Grandparents Chula Vista home. “We used to hold big parties as well as all the family weddings at grandma’s house,” Salmon said Monday in a phone interview. “They would sometimes hire mariachis or play cumbias and corridos and everybody would dance while we kids were running all around.” With 28 aunts and uncles from that one side of the family alone, there was never any shortage of kids to play with, music to listen to or family atmosphere to enjoy.

Carmen Salmon (standing in the back to the left) President of Come Together, a local Beatles fan club, joins Rosie Vidaur (wearing hat) on stage at last year's Beatle Fair.

Four decades later, Salmon is hosting her own parties. And while these annual events create a unique family atmosphere, appeal to kids as well as adults and use music as the catalyst, the music comes from a very different source.

Ever since 1964, Salmon has been enthralled by the music of the Beatles. In the last decade however, she has taken her love for the band and its music to a new level. The seventh annual Beatle Fair that she and her Beatles fan club (Come Together) will host on Sunday at Mission Valley’s Scottish Rite Center is her labor of love. It has grown over the years to the point where it compares favorably with larger festivals held in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles.

“We started Come Together nine years ago,” Salmon said. “(Hosting our own Beatle Fair) was something that we always wanted to do.” Initially, “Come Together” made several trips to L.A.’s already established Beatlefest in an effort to persuade its organizers to bring the event to San Diego.

“They told us there wasn’t a big enough fan base here and that nobody would come.” Undaunted, “Come Together” decided to organize its own Beatles festival.

Come together president, Carmen Salmon (center) pictured with original Beale drummer, Pete Best (right).

What started as a small outdoor festival at San Diego City College seven years ago, has mushroomed into an all-day event that attracts thousands of guests from San Diego County and beyond. While the festivals in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles remain larger they are also highly commercial. Come Together’s Beatle Fair was never intended as a money making enterprise.

“We barely make enough to pay the bills and what we have left we donate to the charities that were important to people like George Harrison and Linda McCartney (American Cancer Society, Romanian Children’s Appeal).” For Salmon, it’s about the music, not the money.

“The one reason that people tell us they come back year after year is our atmosphere. We don’t charge an arm and a leg ($12 at the door with kids under 12 free), so people bring their entire families. We just like people to sit back, have fun and enjoy the whole day.” For Salmon, it’s the next best thing to traveling back in time to her Grandma’s house.

Several excellent Beatles tribute bands will perform throughout the day. Headlining this year are Beatle Fair perennial favorites Rockola and Fair newcomers Back Beat. Recently lauded for their painstaking recreation of the landmark Beatles Sgt. Peppers album in a live concert, Rockola is expected to devote one of its sets to the music of George Harrison to whom this year’s event is dedicated. Back Beat, will focus on the Beatles early music.

Special guests include George Harrison’s older sister Louise, Gordon Waller, half of the popular 60’s Peter & Gordon duo and Jackie Lomax, the first recording artist to be signed to the Beatles own Apple label. In addition, there will be thousands of Beatles-related items on display and for sale, an area in which the Beatles films and concert footage will be screened and several authors discussing their Beatles-related books. Doors open at 11:00 a.m. and the event runs until 8:00 p.m.

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