A Few Festivals for Fun and Food

By Joe Eaton
Tuesday August 21, 2007

Diversity is not just a lofty abstraction: it tastes great, and you can dance to it. With the exception of the wet months, the East Bay calendar is full of street fairs, music festivals, parades, and other events where you can hear everything from mariachi to taiko and sample endless variations on grilled-stuff-on-a-stick. 

A sampling follows, and my apologies to anyone whose favorite event I’ve inadvertently omitted; write to the Planet if you have suggestions. Once again I tried really hard to find a local observance of Loy Krathong, the Thai celebration where you apologize to the spirit of the waters, but no luck. 

For updates, see www.sfgate.com/traveler/events/fairsfestivals.shtml. 


Oakland Chinatown StreetFest, Aug. 25-26: The 20th year for this pan-Asian event, bigger than anything in San Francisco; martial arts demonstrations, taiko drumming, Polynesian dancers, music from Chinese classical to rap, food. www.oaklandchinatownstreetfest.com. 


Art and Soul Festival, Sept. 1-3: A multi-block Labor Day weekend party in downtown Oakland. Lucinda Williams headlines.www.artandsouloakland.com 


Scottish Gathering and Games, Sept. 1-2: Watch out for the caber! Food (haggis at your own risk), music, dancing, sheep dog trials, falconry exhibits. Alameda County Fairgrounds, Pleasanton. www.caledonian.org/games/gamesmain.html 


How Berkeley Can You Be? Parade and Festival, Sept. 30: Is Berkeleyan an ethnic group? A philosophy? A cult? You decide. The parade up University Avenue ends at Martin Luther King Park with more entertainment (South African reggae, Latin rock, Afro-Fusion balafon). http://www.howberkeleycanyoube.com/ 


Ardenwood Cajun/Zydeco Festival, Sept. 22: Local and Louisiana talent perform at Fremont’s historic Ardenwood Farm. Zydeco ace Geno Delafosse heads the bill. There’ll be gumbo and crawfish, of course. www.ebparks.org/activities/events#sep. 


Indigenous Peoples Day, Oct. 6: Pow-wow dancing and drumming, traditional and modern arts and crafts, frybread, bison burgers. Martin Luther King Park, Berkeley. www.red-coral.net/Pow.html 


Ukulele Festival of Northern California, April 2008: All ukuleles, all day, with occasional hula. Kalua pig and other island treats available. Hayward Adult School, 22100 Princeton St., Hayward. (415) 281-0221, http://www.pica-org.org/ukulele. 


Oakland Cinco de Mayo Festival, May 2008: Celebrate the end of one of Napoleon III’s really bad ideas, when Mexico defeated French imperial troops in the battle of Puebla. International Boulevard between 34th and 41st avenues. 535-0389, www.oaklandcincodemayo.com. Other Cinco de Mayo events in Berkeley and elsewhere. 


Festival of Greece, May 2008: Souvlaki, bouzouki, maybe ouzo in the Oakland Hills; dancing with and without tables. Greek Orthodox Cathedral of the Ascension, 4700 Lincoln Ave., Oakland. 531-3400, www.oaklandgreekfestival.com. 


Himalayan Fair, May 2008: Safer than Katmandu—music, dancing, arts, and crafts from the Roof of the World, plus curries and handmade momos. Live Oak Park, Berkeley.  

869-3995, www.himalayanfair.net. 


Juneteenth, June 2008: Commemorating the day that word of the Emancipation Proclamation reached Texas, this celebration of African American heritage also features music, food, and crafts from Africa and the Caribbean. Adeline Street, Berkeley. 655-8008. 


Berkeley International Food Festival, June 2008: Celebrating West Berkeley’s cornucopia of ethnic foods: kahlua pig, pupusas, Pakistani kebabs, Indian ice cream, and more. www.berkeleyinternationalfoodfestival.com. 


Festival of India, August 2008: Fremont’s Indian community hosts a two-day event with Bollywood celebrities and a dance competition. www.fiaonline.org.