One of Berkeley’s signature streets hosts one of the area’s signature street festivals Sunday—the always rambunctious Solano Stroll.
An estimated 150,000 strollers will jaunt down Solano Avenue Sunday reveling in a zany sea of food, games and more than 100 entertainers, some with talents no one knew existed.
Highlighting the event, as always, is the parade down Solano Avenue, open to anyone willing to fork over the $10 entrance fee and find a way to jive with the annual theme.
This year’s event organizer, Lisa Bullwinkel threw participants a curve ball with the theme Imagine: Blooms of Hope.
“I like to throw a theme out and see what people will do with it,” she said. Complicating matters for long-time parade entrants, Bullwinkel has imagined a parade without gas powered vehicles.
Instead of decorating her trademark truck, Sandy Ashley, owner of a San Pablo Avenue sign shop will make two eight-foot long digital red truck photo prints and drag them down the street. “It was a desperate moment,” she said. “But they wouldn’t let me have my truck.
While anyone can enter the parade, first prize has been less egalitarian. For the past three years the winner’s circle has been the private domain of Crestmont Elementary School. The kids and parents at the 66-student private school in Richmond will work all day Saturday building a cart—if all goes well, a Radio Flyer wagon—covered in hand-made flowers.
Last year the school wowed spectators by configuring one thousand origami cranes in their truck.
Without the truck, school Day Care Director David Wharton said the kids will have to pull their load this year, but that if all goes right “it should be pretty spectacular.
The parade lasts from 11 a. m. until about 12:30 p.m. when grandstand performances kick off. As with the festival itself, the acts will veer from the straight and narrow.
The Devil-Ettes, a San Francisco based all-woman synchronized go-go dancer troupe, will make their Berkeley debut. Wearing their trademark horns, the troupe will put their spin on 60s dance classics including the Bird, the Shake, the Shimmy, and the Jerk.
Also on the main stage Freight and Salvage veterans SoVoSo will display their vocal prowess. The five-piece a cappella group replicates the drums, horns, strings and beats of Reggae, Funk, Latin and Jazz using only their voice boxes.
No Berkeley festival would be complete without Pink Man, the town’s foremost unicyclist, but joining him at this year’s stroll will be Twisty Man, a balloon sculpture specialist; Bubble Man, a bubble blowing guru; and Zip Code Man, a local with a photographic memory who can name the corresponding zip code to any address thrown his way.
The stroll first started in 1974 in the upper blocks of the avenue, expanding through the years to San Pablo while garnering a reputation as one of the East Bay’s most cherished events.
“People come back home for the stroll,” Bullwinkel said. “I get phone calls for weddings an class reunions asking what day is the stroll this year.”
The day begins at 8 a.m. with the traditional pancake breakfast at Veterans’ Memorial Park. Stroll booths open at 10 a.m. Free shuttles are scheduled to run from the North Berkeley BART station and along the parallel Marin Avenue.