Quirky Annual Parade Cancelled

Organizers Call Off This Year's 'How Berkeley Can You Be!?' Festivities Due To High Operating Costs

Anne Marie Schuler/File

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An annual parade in Berkeley that draws an eccentric group of participants has been cancelled for the first time in its history, interrupting more than 10 years of nudity, funny-looking cars and Spam-shooting bazookas.

The cancellation of the "How Berkeley Can You Be!?" Parade & Festival is due to financial constraints and the parade is expected to return in September 2010, organizing officials said.

The parade can run up costs of about $27,000 annually and is funded by the city, private donors and vendors who work at the event, according to John Solomon, who started the parade in 1996.

Justin Katz, who has produced the parade for the past few years, said that the city charged the parade's organizers $8,000 in 2008 for security and other services, which he said came as a surprise.

"What used to happen was the city donated its services and then donated $10,000," he said.

City spokesperson Mary Kay Clunies-Ross said the planning process for large events is extensive so as to account for such costs.

But she said that additional costs may sometimes be incurred during an event.

"Depending on what happens you may need more police on site and you may need more traffic control, just depending on how the event is going," she said.

In addition to unforeseen costs, the parade was further hurt financially by a significant drop in alcoholic

beverages sales.

According to Solomon, beer sales dropped from $6,000 to $1,500 last year, which he attributed to the city requiring that alcohol consumption be limited to the confines of a beer


He said some parade participants dropped out of this year's festivities because they could not drink on the street.

"We've had to institute parameters that we never wanted," Solomon said.

However, Clunies-Ross said having a defined drinking area "helps ensure that there's good vending and good caretaking."

"According to state and local law, alcohol (can only) be served in certain situations," she said.

However, Katz said new regulations are ruining the event's spirit of fun. He noted that in addition to more alcohol regulations, a rule was instated to prevent people on floats from throwing candy into the crowd.

"The things that were really fun and exciting and drew to the event years ago have been whittled away," he said.

Despite changes that have upset some participants, the parade has attracted tens of thousands of people to Downtown Berkeley every September since it started.

Solomon said one of his favorite acts was a group that called themselves "PETA."

Instead of the acronym standing for "People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals," it stood for "People Eatin' Them Animals."

The group sliced up the head of a dead pig and shot Spam out of bazookas into the crowd, Solomon said.

"It was the best thing I think that I ever saw at the parade," he said, adding, "The vegetarians didn't like it."


Contact Tess Townsend at [email protected]

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