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Mozart, jazz, theater, art ... that's summer in San Luis Obispo.

Mozart, jazz, theater, art . . . that's summer in San Luis Obispo San Luis Obispo sizzles in summer, and we're not talking about the temperature. The small city, halfway between San Francisco and Los Angeles, has become the Central Coast's cultural center, and summer is high season for events. On July 4, festivities kick off at the city's famous mission; events continue through the highly respected Mozart Festival in early August.

Travelers along U.S. Highway 101 may want to schedule a summer stop here. Better yet, plan to spend a couple of days in town attending performances, dining at the city's good restaurants, and strolling through the many shops.

The surrounding areas have grown quickly in the past few years, largely with an influx of people from Los Angeles and the Bay Area. People come in search of the rural life but still yearn for some city amenities.

The result is a flowering of the arts: the formerly modest but now acclaimed Mozart Festival, 18 years old, draws music fans from around the state, and has spawned a "Festival Fringe" of concerts and lectures. At Cal Poly (one of the state university system's most popular campuses), the theater and music departments put on performances year-round; call (805) 756-6556 for details.

Some residents feel the city is getting too upscale, and stress the need to preserve its 200-year history (the town grew up around Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa, founded in 1772).

To learn more about regional history and preservation efforts, you can join a free 1- to 2-hour walking tour of adobes, public buildings, stores, and churches spanning two centuries. Walks--on Sundays at 2, July 10 through September 4--start at the Murray Adobe in the park-like Mission Plaza, across from the mission.

Kicking off July with

red, white, and blues

Over the Fourth of July weekend, the second annual Central Coast Jazzfest will give aficionados hefty doses of blues, traditional jazz, and jazz-rock fusion.

On Friday evening, July 1, Joe Pass and Tommy Gumina will play atop the hill at Corbett Canyon Winery, southeast of town; tickets cost $25. Two all-day concerts, July 2 and 3, will send sound waves across El Chorro Regional Park just west of the city. Saturday's concert will feature the Freddie Hubbard Quintet; Jimmy Witherspoon will play on Sunday. Tickets cost $19.50. At both locations, bring a blanket for lawn seating. For reservations, call (800) 367-1787.

Almost every other weekend of the year, especially in summer, at least one organization holds a fair or performance in Mission Plaza.

On July 4, the plaza fills with brass bands and youngsters performing all kinds of dance; throughout the day, the city recreation department sponsors watermelon-eating contests and sack races for children. Food and game booths stay open all day. Events kick off at 10.

Summer's centerpiece: Mozart

When it comes to Amadeus, San Luis Obispo is no sleepy little town. The annual Mozart Festival, held August 1 through 7, attracts musicians, composers, and conductors from all over the world. Concerts take place in intimate settings--churches, parks, wineries, cafes--from Arroyo Grande to San Miguel. In all, 20 concerts will be presented in 10 locales.

This year, Christopher Hogwood, a leader in historically accurate performances, will conduct the opening concert. Other performers will include pianists Malcolm Bilson and Jeffrey Kahane, and the Franciscan String Quartet, winners of several international competitions.

The most sought-after tickets will undoubtedly be to the concerts held at the San Luis and San Miguel missions. This year's concerts at San Luis Obispo will feature Mozart's Mass in C Major, performed by the festival's chorus and orchestra. The building promises to be a magical setting, with candlelight warming the walls below the beamed ceiling painted with stars.

Tickets for the music festival range from $3 to $24. For information on dates, locations, and tickets, call the festival office at (805) 543-4580.

Three years ago, the festival instigated the Mozart Akademie, a series of five free lectures held week-nights, July 26 through August 1. Speakers will include the curator of musical instruments at New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art and faculty from The Juilliard School. Call the festival office for details.

Spanning the week of Mozart events is the Festival Fringe, with free concerts, poetry readings, and local art exhibits scheduled throughout the city. You can get a schedule of events from the San Luis Obispo County Arts Council, 544-9251.

Sustenance for those who cannot

live on culture alone

Despite all this cultural nourishment, you'll still have to eat. The city, of course, is strewn with restaurants, but here are some good bets:

Cafe Roma (1819 Osos Street; lunch on weekdays, dinner daily except Sundays) attracts crowds because of its warm ambience (white tablecloths, candles, close-but-not-too-close tables, and the delicious smells of garlic and fresh herbs wafting from the kitchen). Try the seafood pasta. Next door is Pete's Southside Cafe (1815 Osos Street; open for lunch and dinner daily except Sundays, when only brunch is served). Originally, Pete's was a tiny Avila Beach place that served fish tacos and black beans. Now, it's more upscale: it's a bright, busy place with well-priced fresh seafood as well as Mexican fare.

For breakfast, try Louisa's Place (964 Higuera Street; breakfast and lunch daily); you'll be shoulder-to-shoulder at the U-shaped counter with locals eating buckwheat pancakes. Or try the Del Monte Cafe (1901 Santa Barbara Street; breakfast daily, lunch daily except Sundays, dinner Wednesdays through Saturdays), done up like a '40s diner, with plentiful servings at moderate prices.

Linnaea's Cafe (1110 Garden Street; open daily 7:30 A.M. to midnight except Sundays, when it's closed from 3 to 7 P.M.) isn't just about eating; it's about hanging out, too. Here, you sip steaming espresso drinks, nibble homemade desserts, and listen to weekly poetry readings.

For more information

The chamber of commerce can give you detailed maps and information on the area's many moderately priced lodgings; call 543-1323, or stop in at 1039 Chorro Street (the street forms the plaza's northern border). Hours are 9 to 5 daily.
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No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1988 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Mozart Festival
Publication:Sunset
Date:Jul 1, 1988
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