Annual Solano Stroll Showcases Oddities' Parade

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In Berkeley, a lost deer seems more out of place than a man on a unicycle wearing a watermelon on his head while juggling tofu. Nevertheless, Berkeley residents could see both yesterday at the 26th annual Solano Avenue Stroll.

The Solano Avenue Association organized the event, which is the oldest and largest street fair in the East Bay. The stroll was recently selected to be a nationally-recognized "Local Legacy" in the Library of Congress.

To coincide with the honor, the association named the theme for this year's stroll "Local Legacies on Parade." Legends included Alice Waters of Chez Panisse, Helen Zeiger, The Yo-Yo Lady and Joseph Charles, The Waving Man.

"I've never been honored (in the parade) before," said a long-time attendant of the fair who goes by the name Ranger Tim. "I love the musical groups - it's an opportunity for local people to play. I love watching the kids. I love to see people in the streets."

Another local legend, Country Joe McDonald, who became famous as a political folk singer in the 1960s, said he also enjoyed the stroll and believes it would have been impossible several decades ago when he first came to Berkeley.

"It's like a picnic," McDonald said. "I see a lot of my friends, which is great. It's a much friendlier and nicer place. You couldn't have had a Solano Stroll in the 60s. People would be beating the shit out of each other in the streets. Young people are a lot smarter now."

Certainly a representation of Berkeley's flavor was Daisy the Truth Fairy, who came to the stroll, though she was not honored as a local legacy. Sporting a complete fairy outfit, she sprinkled curious passers-by with glitter and kind words.

"My theme is sprinkling peace on earth, empowering children and causing them to realize the preciousness of life and for us to start caring again," she said.

Other eccentric sights included the art cars, The Back Pages - a group of middle-aged men playing classic rock - Pink Man and many young musicians. Included in this group was Lisa Says, a folk rock band consisting of two sets of brothers and sisters ranging between the ages of 12 and 16.

These quirky characters failed to surprise spectator and Berkeley new-comer Nathan Morse, however. Morse said what surprised him the most was the number of people at the stroll.

"I just got here," Morse said. "It was kind of amazing. From the top you could see (people) all the way down San Pablo Avenue."

Councilmember Betty Olds said she agreed with others that the parade could not have taken place on a better day.

"Today was beautiful," Olds said. "It's just so healthy to have everyone walking. Never have we had a bad day for this stroll in the last 10 years. It's nice to see everybody so happy. The only thing I don't like is all these balloons going up in the air."

Other onlookers of the event said they come every year not only for the food and company, but for the complete "pandemonium" that the fair offers.

"It's a blast," said Travis Enfield, part of a group of people who performed gymnastics on horses at the parade. "There's so many people looking at me. I like it when people look at me."


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