Arts Listings

Live Oak Park Hosts 24th Annual Himalayan Fair

By Ken Bullock, Special to the Planet
Friday May 18, 2007

Berkeley’s Himalayan Fair celebrates its 24th year in Live Oak Park this weekend. It might be its last as the city of Berkeley has increased restrictions on the event which may force it to move next year or shut down, according to fair organizers. 

The fair—a constantly moving pageant of onstage South and Central Asian musicians, singers and dancers, and the vibrant fairgoers, straying down alleys of bazaar-like booths featuring the aroma of ethnic foods, many crafts and much artwork and a fabulous assortment of other goods, or gathering under the trees or on the rocks by the creek—was modelled by founder Arlene Blum on the village spring festivals she encountered on her mountaineering treks in Nepal and India. 

The fair is “a victim of its own success,” in the words of Fair Committee member Barbara Framm. She is asking for help from the community to determine how to continue the annual event after an escalation of restrictions by various city departments. 

“This could well be the last year of the Himalayan Fair at Live Oak Park,” said one committee member. “And maybe the last year of the fair.” 

At a meeting of the committee on Wednesday, members discussed options for different sites, and Blum presented a petition to be circulated at the fair to try to convince the City Council to keep the fair at Live Oak Park. 

“The petitions will be at all the food booths and at the information booth,” said Rosa Mendicino, who coordinates the food concessions and runs the popular vegetable curry and ice cream booths.  

Mendicino says that complaints, mostly about traffic and parking problems and some reports of noise in the neighborhood, have provoked the increase of city intervention. “We were told to put wooden floors under the food booths,” she said. “Yet Park and Rec said that would be bad for the grass. So this time the booths are on the basketball courts.”  

There have also been complaints about lack of wheelchair access. “Not all the booths are on walkways,” said Mendicino. “Two years ago we inaugurated a program with volunteers at the ready, to help disabled people, to push wheelchairs or get whatever they wanted from the stands.” 

This year there will also be a shuttle that will run a loop from North Berkeley BART, with stops on Shattuck at Lincoln and Berryman, to try to reduce traffic volume.  

“My children and now grandchildren have grown up at the Himalayan Fair,” Mendicino said. “I don’t want to see that tradition squelched. It can’t be so bad that we won’t be able to stay in Live Oak Park. We’ve looked at other parks, and come to the conclusion that no other place lends itself so well to the character of the fair.”