Some other towns came to town Sunday to stroll Solano Avenue, a guesstimated mob, the population of Berkeley, Albany, and Richmond joined.
They came by bike and bus, and some played nail-a-parking-space with Berkeley-Albany natives, who live in the vast urban grid defined by twenty block-long Solano Avenue.
The top of the stroll, at Solano and The Alameda led off with a small ferris wheel and the bottom, near San Pablo Avenue, finished with state-fair midway fare.
There were bikes galore, enough cops to quell a riot, causes from save the rabbits to adopt-a-bird to save the world. Politicians campaigning, kids complaining, cops schmoozing, a little cafe-boozing, stirring music, classy jewelry and….
The food, plenteous, and diverse. In a typical snack-attack we call midway appetite ™ we staunched ours with deep-fried in coconut oil Calamari. And that was just the two-hundred food stalls. Solano restaurants threw open their doors, or served from their front window (Chicago Pizza), or buffet tables.
Berkeley Police manned a community relations booth, gave away post-its sporting a police pitch. Berkeley fire trotted out a nag with a fire hat and a police sticker affixed to its tired old haunch (risking becoming the butt of horses' ass jokes). BPD rolled out its mobile command vehicle, a quarter block long police station on wheels.
Interviewed the day before, some Solano merchants said they would stay home. "The stroll's just a place to eat," said one. "It kills our business." Not all Solano businesses agreed, and those were rewarded with customers.
Although Solano sales revenues are down, reportedly, the lengthy lane is still a "good business neighborhood" said several small-businessmen a day before the event. The avenue is lined with quaint local businesses, some dating back to the forties, or in the case of Andronicos, the twenties.
Although snacks averaged from seven to ten dollars a chomp, Andronicos suspended its usual high prices to offer free chilled milk (courtesy Clover Dairies), and 25-cent watermelon slices.
Even Solano businesses, which were critical of the event praised it for its clean-up.
"When I come to the shop, Monday, I won't even notice the event was held," one said.
The clean-up fits well with the theme of environmental-preservation, shared by many info booths.
At 6:20 p.m. an Albany squad car, its flashing lights ablaze, announced that the event was over (it officially ended at 6 p.m., but continued on for thirty minutes)…"Clear the street."
"The streets are ours," yelled a bystander.
And indeed they were from 10 a.m. to 6. Three towns gathered in a mile and a half?
The cops and I grappled with that notion and the 250, 000 attendance figure, cherished by the event's organizers.
Suspiciously, that number never varies.
"if that many showed up, we'd have pandemonium," said one cop.
Another noted that "we don't count heads but we plan ahead for all contingencies."
Bottom-line, said a cop, "it was a lot of people." And a lot of cops expecting them.
Lots of fairs claim to be big, but Solano delivers.
The Planet's "voice of the South-side," Ted Friedman returned to Solano after a twenty-year hiatus, to see how they mount a fair this big on the greatest business street in the world (?).