Mr. Confetti, the marionette, kicked and danced and even spun on his hands, moving to the beat of a group of animated Taiko drummers; juice from fresh-picked peaches poured down shirt fronts as market-goers strolled in the sun; connoisseurs fingered hand-made quilts and looked longingly at Elaine Pruitt’s sparkling “wearable art.” And even in the stress-free environment of Sunday’s first-ever West Berkeley Market, there were folks ready to enjoy a “quickie” massage.
Dave Cohen, founder of Berkeley’s much-celebrated Pedal Express - the folks who deliver packages and such by bike – was there with a new venture: importing “tricycles” from Denmark. They’re actually much more than simply three-wheeled bikes. One on display at the market was an electric trike made for transporting very large packages. Another was a person-powered three-wheeler, on which Cohen had transported his twin nephews down to the market at the foot of University Avenue. The pre-schoolers rode in an enclosed box in front of the bike, rather than behind as is often the case in other bikes made to carry kids.
Not far from Cohen, another Berkeley resident, Katya Madrid, was concentrating on her project – drawing an elaborate henna tattoo on David Page’s shoulder. Nearby, Darrie Bennett, who lives just over the Oakland border, was thoroughly enjoying a demonstration of a plastic massage tool. His smile told it all.
There was something for everyone, with the kids grinning as story teller Madame Ovary told tales with her egg-like props such as eggloos that open up to show play people or animals inside. She also used her ingenuity to transform a piece of old industrial waste into a sparkling crown.
JoJo La Plume from San Francisco not only makes her marionettes – it took her a couple of months to make Mr. Confetti, whose costume included tiny beads – but puts on a show that drew applause from people of all ages who had stopped at her booth at the market.
The Taiko Drummers from Emeryville filled the block-long “mercado” with their vibrant rhythms, only overpowered by the roar of an Amtrack train. While the beating rhythms filled up the market place in sound, the smell of popcorn popped on a huge wood-fired kettle permeated it on another level.
And if popcorn was not what the customer wanted, she could step to the booth next door and sample a somosa from Quick-n-ezee Indian Foods, a San Leandro-based kitchen.
In all, organizers, who’ve worked for three years to get the market up and running on University Avenue between Third and Fourth streets, called their first day a success. “It’s wonderful,” said Willie Phillips, president of the West Berkeley Neighborhood Development Corporation, sponsor of the market.
Phillips says he’s ready for more. While vendors had come Sunday from Oakland, Piedmont, San Leandro, Benecia and as far away as Monterey, there were few West Berkeley vendors involved. Among the goals of the WBNDC, is to involve more local vendors, especially low income people. People interested in booth space can call 654-6346.