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How Berkeley Can They Be? Very

Matthew Artz
Monday September 30, 2002

Berkeley’s biggest, bawdiest and barest festival went off without a hitch Sunday. 

The seventh annual “How Berkeley Can You Be?” parade once again showed that Berkeley’s penchant for the absurd is matched only by its outlandish sense of humor. 

Parade revelers – many in elaborate costumes, others wearing no clothes at all – pranced up University Avenue to Civic Center Park before a thick crowd of admirers. 

“This is great,” said D.R. Faust, who came with this wife all the way from Fresno to see the parade. “It’s a great testament to Berkeley that it can celebrate itself in such a fun, unpretentious way.” 

Many of the floats mocked the city’s reputation for political activism. 

The biggest crowd reaction was for a band of students posing as Starbuck’s Community Relations Department. Decked out in the company’s green uniforms, the revelers promised new outlets throughout Berkeley, while spectators hissed and jeered. 

A group calling itself Christian Ladies Converting Dykes sang a musical number espousing the virtue of sleeping with men. 

Not all Berkeleyans were in on the jokes, however.  

A new entry this year, People Eatin’ Them Animals - a satire on an animal rights organization - decorated a float with what appeared to be the carcass of a German Shepherd. While some spectators looked on in horror, “PETA” members handed out unusual looking pieces of lean meat still attached to bone that they insisted was either Shepherd or Pekinese. 

“A few people threatened us with physical violence along the way,” said “PETA” organizer Ian Curtis. 

Life didn’t get any easier for the canine connoisseurs after the parade ended. When they tried to resume serving meat from their float now parked at Civic Center Park, Berkeley Animal Control Services, working on a tip from a concerned citizen, threatened to shut them down.  

“We explained everything to them and now they’re eating it too,” said Curtis, who refused to reveal the actual source of the meat. 

When Berkeleyans weren’t making fun of themselves, their usual target was the potential war with Iraq. 

Different marchers urged President George W. Bush to consider alternatives to battle. 

A local brewer shouted out, “Make beer not war,” while a nudist held a sign, “Tits Not Targets.” 

The parade formed to celebrate Berkeley has grown into one of the best exhibits of art cars in the country. More than 80 decorated cars sputtered through Berkeley during the festivities, said art car organizer Harrod Blank. He noted that the parade is poised next year to surpass the Houston Art Car Parade as the biggest art car gathering in the United States. 

Daniel Macchiarini, a San Francisco artist who drove one of art cars, said the beauty of the parade extended far beyond the decorated vehicles.  

“This is the spirit of Berkeley - to be able to invent yourself anyway you want,” he said.