Back in 1992, I was asked to participate in an art festival which had started the previous year. Although I was unfamiliar with the event, I had several friends who were on the board of directors and/or were artists for it, so I agreed. That year, Chalk it Up to Sacramento! took place outside La Raza Galeria Posada on O Street; the following year, the festival moved to Fremont Park, where, until this year, it had been held every Labor Day weekend since.

Businesses and individuals sponsor the “squares,” large chalk drawings on the walkways at the site. That first year mine was done for local rock band Tattooed Love Dogs, who were favorites of mine. The money raised is distributed in the form of grants to benefit children’s art education, an important cause to me personally, as I really had no art education at all in elementary school or junior high. Furthermore, the festival was a lot of fun, so I decided to continue participating.

Polaroid of artwork by Corey Okada for Chalk it Up! poster (2002).

In June of 2002, I was asked to do a chalk drawing in the parking lot of Page Design; it would be used as the basis for the Chalk it Up! poster that year. I remember festival president Rick Best bringing lunch to me that afternoon; it was a hot, windy day, and he also provided a large canopy to protect me from the sun. While I was working, I could hear the legs of the structure moving, scraping against the concrete – suddenly it lifted off the ground, flew over my head, across the parking lot, and into Page Design’s glass door, which shattered. I ran to the door and my surprised face was met by the surprised face of a man working in the office.

Sadly, a few weeks later, Rick was in a car accident, and he passed away that December, having never left the hospital. In his honor, a tree was planted in Fremont Park, where he had spent so much time during Labor Day weekends over the years. He is missed by the many friends he left behind.

In September 2004, I was in my own serious car accident, which effectively ended my Chalk it Up! career. My back could no longer take my sitting on the concrete for three days in the Sacramento heat. In truth, my tenure was probably near its end, anyway. Most, if not all, of the artists with whom I started had ceased participating years before. Drawing elaborate pieces in chalk on the sidewalk really is an activity for younger bodies. I do still attend to see the art, hear some music, and maybe run into some people I haven’t seen since the previous festival.

This year, Chalk it Up! will again take place Labor Day Weekend, Saturday through Monday, September 5-7, but because of the COVID-19 pandemic, it been retooled as Chalk it Up Around the Town! Instead of being based at Fremont Park, artists will create their squares on sidewalks, parking lots, and driveways throughout the greater Sacramento area. Musical performances will be streamed online during the weekend. Chalk it Up and stay safe!