SAN FRANCISCO — Here are two facts about San Francisco. One, it is prone to earthquakes. Two, it loves a good time.
And so today, San Franciscans are being invited by their city government to combine those divergent concepts to celebrate an event that was not fun: the Loma Prieta earthquake, which struck on Oct. 17, 1989, killed 63 people, injured thousands and caused billions of dollars in damages in the Bay Area.
Or so thinks the San Francisco mayor's office, which has promoted a week's worth of events surrounding the quake's anniversary, called the Big Rumble and including such predictable fare as panels on emergency management and conferences on structural engineering.
But in a nod to the city's lively civic spirit, planners have also organized four "neighborhood fairs" for today — an eclectic and earthquake-unrelated roster of martial arts demonstrations, drum circles, break dancers, DJs, fabulous giveaways, indie-rock foursomes and electro-pop dance groups, including one called My First Earthquake.
That is not all. Residents have been urged to hold their own neighborhood parties complete with "barbecues and world-famous potato salads," and even children's bouncy castles, kind of like a kid-friendly earthquake.
Nathan Ballard, a mayoral spokesman, said the intention of the festivities was not to disrespect the losses suffered in the earthquake, but rather to "reinvigorate our commitment, not just to earthquake preparedness but to any type of hazard."
Along those lines, the city has produced a 30-page "Block Party Host Toolkit," complete with "tons of great tips on how to throw the perfect bash," covering promotion, budgeting and cuisine, among other things.
"One of the most important elements to a successful block party is food," reads one tip, adding that "food consists of more than just salads."
Food is also, of course, a critical element to surviving major earthquakes, something that the authorities been trying to emphasize this week, including during a statewide drill on Thursday. After the shaking stops, emergency officials recommend having 72 hours' worth of supplies, including water, canned goods and prescription medicines.
Laura Adleman, a spokeswoman for the San Francisco Department of Emergency Management, said the response to today's plans had been decidedly positive, with about 20 block parties planned.
San Francisco has never shied from its seismic past, holding an annual pre-dawn commemoration — followed by occasionally boozy breakfast — every April 18, the anniversary of the 1906 quake and fire that devastated the city.