PITTSBURG -- Get ready to chow down on oysters, shrimp and other seafood delights at the city's upcoming Seafood Festival.
But while those familiar favorites will be on hand at the popular event, a big change will roll out this year that won't be so popular. No more free parking.
The festival, now in its 28th year, will be Saturday and Sunday ¿in the city's Old Town area on Railroad Avenue. Last year, the event drew more than 60,000 people.
The Pittsburg Chamber of Commerce, which sponsors the event, has eliminated the free parking and free shuttle service previously offered at the Pittsburg-Bay Point BART station, Los Medanos College, City Hall and Pittsburg school district office in favor of charging festivalgoers $5 to park closer to where the event is held. (The $5 fee includes a voucher for free popcorn at the newly opened Maya Cinemas.)
The $5 parking charge is "absolutely" needed to help the Chamber offset city costs it has to pay that are associated with the event, said Harry York, the Chamber's chief executive officer.
Regularly scheduled Tri Delta Transit buses will still go from the BART station to the event, but the free shuttle bus that had previously transported people to the festival will not be running, said Jeanne Krieg, Tri Delta's chief executive officer.
"It's different this year," she said. "I know there are going to be people out there expecting to see that free shuttle and it's not going
The event will include musical entertainment, arts and crafts booths, and a beer and wine pavilion in addition to lots and lots of seafood. New features at this year's festival will include educational materials about sustainable seafood along with a larger children's area that will feature a petting zoo.
"The focus is on sustainability and making it very family-oriented," York said.
Another change with the festival is how tickets will be sold. Unlike before, people cannot buy tickets online or use credit cards to purchase them this year. That means people can only pay cash at the entry gates to get into the festival. Portable ATM machines will be available to dispense cash at the entry gates.
The decision to go with cash-to-pay entry fees was made to avoid having to pay credit card processing fees to banks, and there are security issues with online sales, he said.
Earlier this year, it looked like the festival might have to be scaled back as a result of how much more the Chamber should pay the city for police and public works services associated with putting on the event. But those details have since been worked out.
"We've resolved those issues," said York, adding the exact costs won't be known until after the event.
The 2010 festival was the last time that the city subsidized police and public works costs associated with the event. Last year, the Chamber paid the full cost for police services, but public works expenses were picked up by the Pittsburg Arts and Community Foundation.
The 2012 festival will mark the first time that the Chamber will pay full cost for the services.
"They are paying their own way," Pittsburg city manager Joe Sbranti said.
Reach Eve Mitchell at 925-779-7189. Follow her on Twitter.com/EastCounty_Girl.
WHAT: 28th Annual Pittsburg Seafood Festival
WHERE: On Railroad Avenue in downtown Pittsburg.
WHEN: 10 a.m. to 8 p.m Sept. 8; 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sept 9
PARKING: $5 at Third and Harbor streets.
COST: Adults, $10; children under 15, $5; seniors over 62, $5
INFO: www.pittsburgseafoodfestival.com or call 925-432-7301.