Hijacked Saturday

It’s time to take back Midtown.

One man was killed and three others wounded at 12:13 a.m. Sunday after shots were fired in a crowd of more than 200 people hanging around Midtown after the monthly Second Saturday festivities.

Victor Hugo Perez Zavala, 24, won’t get another chance in life, but this ugly situation is a much-needed wake-up call.

When Second Saturday started to get enormously popular a couple of years ago, attracting people from all over Sacramento, it seemed festive—like we were all in on the secret that this town knew how to throw down a party.

And then it turned into a drag.

What happened?

I can’t speak for the rest of Sac, but I stopped attending the monthly event in 2009, after a warm July evening spent fighting my way through the crowds left me wondering if anyone gave a damn about the art anymore.

At first the boycott wasn’t intentional—I just had other plans, other places to be.

Eventually, however, I realized that my choice had shifted into something conscious and resolute.

I didn’t like Second Saturday anymore.

And the reasons were myriad: the crowds consisted of young, drunken revelers who looked as if they’d just stumbled out of the kind of nightclub that played only an unholy mix of Ke$ha and Disturbed; the streets overrun by Hummers and valet-parking attendants; the fact that every street corner seemed to be populated by an insistently loud, bad band trying to outplay the insistently loud, bad band stationed on the next corner.

Sure, there were still people and galleries and shops doing great things—art exhibitions, fashion shows and musical collaborations—but the creativity and edge and cool were now dulled and obscured by a relentless focus on party, party, party.

Now, this weekend’s horrible turn of events just confirms that Second Saturday is out of control—light years away from its original intent to highlight the arts.

In the last few days, several of my friends have taken to Facebook to lament that, like the late ’90s-era Thursday Night Markets before it, Second Saturday is in danger of being shut down.

Certainly, it’s been hijacked—by frat boys and thugs; by wannabe Carrie Bradshaws and girls who don’t know how to hold their liquor; by stupidity and out-of-control violence.

So what’s really next?

Mayor Kevin Johnson has already vowed that Second Saturday will continue and, ideally, I’d love to see the galleries and other venues that promote the arts reclaim the night—but once something boils over, it’s nearly impossible to put it back in the pot.

Canceling Second Saturday isn’t necessarily the answer, but it should be scaled back. Way back.

This town boasts a thriving art scene, and it doesn’t need a monthly Saturday event to prove that. Several artists and establishments have already started hosting events on the third Saturday of the month in an effort not just to avoid the crowds, but also as a way of standing out amid the relentless onslaught of Second Saturday activity.

If we promote the arts throughout the month instead of just concentrating on one particular night, then, eventually, more people will patronize the arts at any given time.

If we stop looking for art amid the $2 well drinks and ladies-free-before-10 p.m. cover charges, then, eventually, we’ll find inspiration, beauty, creativity—and peace—everywhere.