Fresno Grizzlies plan to offer major minor-league fun this season


The Grizzly Music and Arts Festival features Fresno rapper Fashawn


The mega-popular Taco Truck Throwdown returns Aug. 6.


Promotions nights offer fun for families, foodies and fans of pop culture


The Fresno Grizzlies offer no apologies for the entertainment options this season.

“Not only are we going to be unapologetically Fresno, we’re going to be unapologetically minor league,” says Grizzlies marketing director Sam Hansen.

You can expect more antics from Grizzlies mascot Parker, plus a season’s worth of bold promotional nights.

How bold?

The Back to the Future tribute night, which included a 2017 Astros Championship ring as a promotional item (keeping with the time-travel theme) was so bold the giveaway got canceled hours after the Grizzlies made the announcement with a fully staged press conference. The tribute night is still happening Aug. 15 with another, more Fresno-centric giveaway.

You can also expect more excitement and new characters during the in-game entertainment. That’s courtesy of on-field emcee Nick Haas, who is a member of Fresno’s Blimprov comedy group.

There will be some fierce rivalries brewing (with the Wackramento Fat Cats, for example) and WWE style conflicts, Hansen says.

“This town needs a place where you can come laugh and let your hair down,” he says.

It all starts opening day (Thursday, April 9), with a free pre-game party on H Street in front of Chukchansi Park.

The so-called H Street Festival begins at 4 p.m. and sets the tone for the season. There will be pony rides and a bounce house, an official Golden Stick Wiffle Ball league game and a performance from Fresno indie-rockers Strange Vine. The band is no stranger to ballpark gigs. It played before a San Francisco Giants game last season.

Inside the stadium, you’ll find the Grizzlies Kids Fun Zone, the G-Force promo team and Fresno Dance Collective performing aerial acrobatics. There will be a post-game fireworks show.

“I don’t know if opening day has ever been like that here,” says Ryan Young, the Grizzlies’ communications and marketing manager.

Already, fans seems excited. Pre-sales for the game are higher than at this point last year, Young says. That’s impressive considering the team’s much publicized split with the Giants, he says. The team is now affiliated with the Houston Astros.

Here is a breakdown of some of the fun planned for the rest of the season. A full schedule and list of promotions can be found at www.fresnogrizzlies.com.

Music and beats

• Grizzly Music and Arts Festival (May 16)

This day-long music festival is not officially part of the Grizzlies’ schedule (the festival takes over the stadium on an off night). The team is sponsoring the all-ages event, which has an impressive lineup of performers, including: Fresno rapper Fashawn, Delta Spirit, Iamsu!, Ty Segall’s Fuzz, Kool John, Strange Vine, Lou Umbra, Omar Aura, Clouded Vision, 40 Watt Hype, Sahab, Exile, The Kid Ryan, Zee Will and Slow Season.

The Grizzlies are making general admission tickets free (in exchange for a game ticket) through May 11. Just exchange the tickets at the courtesy booth after the completion of the sixth inning.

• La Familia Sunday (May 24)

The Grizzlies honor the 20th anniversary of the death of Selena with this tribute to the Queen of Tejano music. There will be Tejano bands playing throughout the concourse and a round of Selena karaoke.

• Biz Markie (Aug. 1)

The hip-hop legend will lead the stadium in what The Grizzlies hope will be Fresno’s largest sing-along — to Markie’s 1989 hit “Just a Friend,” of course. A beat-box competition is also scheduled.

Pop culture

• “Star Wars” Theme Night (May 8)

The Fresno Philharmonic’s Brass Quintet will perform John Williams’ score to “Star Wars” as pregame theme music. Stormtroopers and other Star Wars characters from the 501st Legion Central California Garrison will be available for photo opportunities and other in-game entertainment.

• Halfway to Halloween (May 23)

It’s fright night in the ballpark. Kids can come in costume and trick or treat with the players, or just wander through the concourse, which will become a full-on haunted house for the night.

For a culinary fright, the Grizzlies are offering up the Frankenslice. That’s a hot-dog-stuffed-crust pizza slice. Scary!

• Fresno Ninja Warrior Night (July 17)

Past competitors from the television show “American Ninja Warrior” will compete against local athletes in a series of obstacles to determine the true Fresno Ninja Warrior.

Brews and bites

• Hot Dog Eating Contest (July 4)

The Grizzlies keep it classic on Independence Day with an old-fashioned hot-dog eating contest. Because you’re wondering, yes, you can compete. The team will announce entrance qualifications in June.

• Taco Truck Throwdown (Aug. 6)

Tacos might be the official food of Fresno (heck, the whole Central Valley). This is the fifth anniversary of the mega-popular throwdown, which brings together a dozen or more of the Valley’s best trucks for a taco-to-taco taste-off. The Grizzlies are looking to better last year’s event, where 27,000 tacos were eaten.

• Brews of the World Festival (Aug. 8)

Yes, Heineken is an import beer, technically. So, is Tecate. But this event is for the beer enthusiast looking to sample beers from all around the world — including a few you won’t find anywhere in the Valley.