SF State’s Parkmerced hosts social-distanced musical light show for holiday season


Katherine Burgos

DEWPOINT perform at Juan Bautista Circle during the Nightlights event in Park Merced in San Francisco, on Dec. 4, 2020. (Katherine Burgos / Golden Gate Xpress)

With new stay-at-home restrictions being handed down by Gov. Gavin Newsom this past week, Californians are once again finding dwindling options for outdoor activities.

With limitations on congregating, Parkmerced has found a new way to provide activities during the holiday season with the establishment of a musical light show on Tuesdays and Fridays for residents and park visitors alike to enjoy.

The light show, named “Syzygy,” is the brainchild of artist Taylor Dean Harrison and consists of six LED light sculptures that are 15 feet high, 10 feet wide and span 120 feet in diameter. The size of Syzygy provides onlookers the ability to partake in the event and listen to music up close — while observing socially distant practices — or from afar in their cars.

According to Crystal Watts, Parkmerced’s community relations manager, the idea was to utilize the park, which is classified as essential by the state, to provide two days of the week for socially distanced gatherings, music performances and food trucks in the midst of state’s limitations for people to come together. 

“That’s the point of this, the music series, is to create an environment that’s low risk and where people feel comfortable stretching their legs,” Watts said. “And not necessarily gathering in multiple groups.”

Watts was adamant that even if the light show ends up being shut down due to the new COVID-19 regulations, Parkmerced will look for ways to continue bringing the community together through this format.

Samba Rio, a Brazilian Samba group performs at Juan Bautista Circleduring the Nightlights event in Park Merced in San Francisco, on Dec. 4, 2020. (Katherine Burgos / Golden Gate Xpress) (Katherine Burgos)

“Music, art and food are so important to the community and that’s what we are here for,” she said, referencing Parkmerced’s summer music program which was established earlier this year. “Residents have felt so excited, they love it. So many tears … this music series has probably brought people tears because they are so cooped up and it’s needed so much more right now.” 

Enjoli Scott, an 11-year-resident of Parkmerced says the light show provides an outlet for residents to get outside and enjoy their community.

Parkmerced has significantly changed from the first time I moved in and it’s amazing what they’re doing here. They’re adding more functions for the people,” Scott said. “And to be honest, with the price you pay, it’s nice to have something to give back.”

For Marissa Head and Katy Sue, roommates who moved into Parkmerced a month ago, the light show was a welcomed surprise while they were walking around their new neighborhood. 

“We were going on a walk to get food at the strip mall,” Head recalled about the first time she saw Syzygy. “We saw the music playing, the dancers and then we just stopped and figured we might as well stop and check it out.”

Sue said that she is not too familiar with the area, but said due to the light show there is a welcoming feeling to her new surroundings.

“Definitely, it adds a sense of community,” Sue said. “I initially expected to just stay indoors but there’s so many things happening, so we came and checked it out.”

According to Parkmerced’s event calendar, the next scheduled Syzygy event will take place on Friday, Dec. 11.