38th Annual Solano Stroll showcases business, family fun

The 38th Annual Solano Avenue Stroll called "Step into the Future" was held Sunday, September 9th. Over 500 vendors, non-profit organizations, food booths, and entertainers were at the event.
Katherine Chen/Staff
The 38th Annual Solano Avenue Stroll called "Step into the Future" was held Sunday, September 9th. Over 500 vendors, non-profit organizations, food booths, and entertainers were at the event.

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With a playful atmosphere akin to that of a county fair, the Berkeley-Albany border came to life on Sunday, hosting the 38th annual Solano Avenue Stroll.

The one-day event appealed widely to the thousands of strollers who graced the strip, offering endless entertainment, displays and vendors — ranging from the occasional political campaign to familiar food stands.

Family-oriented and alcohol-free, the festival seeks to cater to all demographics with its live music, kickoff parade and carnival rides, said Allen Cain, executive director and events manager of the Solano Avenue Association.

“We specifically cater this event to families,” Cain said. “We don’t allow pets to make sure the kids are safe.”

This year’s theme, “Step into the Future,” signifies the event’s goal to help local businesses and local artists gain exposure and fundraising in these tough economic times, as more small businesses face encroachment by larger chain stores, Cain said.

“Entrepreneurs are navigating the future … adapting and synthesizing and being proactive about what the future holds. Not just as a business but as a community,” he said.

According to Cain, there were 480 registered vendors at the event, not including the Solano Avenue businesses that also participated. The Daily Californian was also a sponsor of the event.

Pat Denevan, owner and founder of Mission Soaring Center in Milpitas, said he has set up a booth with a hang-gliding simulator at the festival for more than 15 years because it “gets people excited” about the sport. Typically, 40 to 50 people end up buying a discounted lesson, which makes setting up a booth profitable and enjoyable, he said.

“We give the most fun shows here,” Denevan said. “Berkeley people are up for doing fun stuff.”

Aside from the typical commercial vendors, Cain said the community aspect of the Solano Stroll separates this event from similar displays, since so many different types of community organizations and informational nonprofits in the area also set up booths. Though the average commercial booth costs about $300 to $500, nonprofit booths are charged only $110, he said.

“Most of our business owners live in the community, and a significant percentage grew up in this community,” Cain said. “You can’t buy that — that community spirit that has happened organically and is here to stay. It’s a very tight area.”

Berkeley resident Daren Fields, who has been going to the festival for 25 years, said the Solano Stroll is a great family event with an assortment of activities.

“It’s a wonderful community gathering that helps to promote the local businesses and all that North Berkeley and Albany has to offer,” he said.

Weiru Fang is the assistant city news editor. Contact her at [email protected].