People across the Central Coast are honoring the memory of Kristin Smart 27 years to the day after her disappearance.
What started as a chance encounter between a group of musicians and the Smart family has blossomed into a close friendship that was on full display Thursday night.
“We met the family, Denise and Stan Smart, in Shell Beach on a bluff off of Palisades just very randomly,” said Therese Cron, who met Smart’s parents six years ago.
Every year since then, she has returned to Kristin’s memorial on May 25 to pay tribute to a life taken too soon.
“She loved music. She loved people. She loved to travel and I think everything that we represent, every song we sing is for her and I know she feels it,” said Cron.
Therese and fellow musicians gathered at Dinosaur Caves Park in Shell Beach Thursday evening to sing songs that Kristin and her family both loved.
“For example, one of Kristin’s favorite songs was Soak Up the Sun by Sheryl Crow. We sing Here Comes the Sun because that was a song Denise would sing to Kristin,” explained Cron.
This year is different than past anniversaries.
Paul Flores was convicted last October of murdering Kristin Smart and is now serving out his 15 years-to-life sentence in a California state prison.
“There will be women in this county, in LA that are safe now that he’s not out on the streets,” said Cron.
People who live in the Five Cities say it’s important to continue showing support to Kristin’s family.
“They’re an amazing family. We’re all lucky to know them,” said Ted Gillan, who lives in Arroyo Grande. “All the love that we’ve provided to them, I think that it helps them in the healing process.”
The musical tribute came on a somber anniversary, but organizers are hoping to focus on the positive and celebrate Kristin’s life.
“I think she would be so happy. The sea was one of her favorite places,” said Cron. “The 19 years that she was on this Earth were amazing and she brought love and joy to everyone that she was with.”
Organizers say they will continue paying tribute to Kristin’s memory every year on the anniversary of her disappearance.
A vigil for Kristin was also held on the Cal Poly campus Thursday evening.
Twenty-seven purple flowers were placed on the lawn symbolizing the 27 years since her disappearance and purple flower seeds were scattered around the memorial.
“We're here to obviously remember her, but also ensure that we're doing our part in making an effort to help our community and ensure that women don't have to be scared when they're walking home at night," said second-year Cal Poly student Eve Stewart.
There are currently no permanent memorials on the Cal Poly campus honoring Kristin Smart, but a Cal Poly spokesperson tells KSBY they are eager to do so and are in communication with the Smart family.