Community celebrates 4th of July with festival at Berkeley Marina

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Doug Smith/Staff

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Seven-year-old Bonnie Semana sat on a folding chair wearing a soft brown jacket, happily chewing on a mouthful of noodles and eagerly awaiting the fireworks show for the Fourth of July celebrations at the Berkeley Marina.

Semana said she was especially looking forward to the pink fireworks, which would light up the sky in a mere four hours. Her mother, Marie Semana, said it was the family’s first time at the festival, as they are from Hayward.

“This is really an upgrade for us,” Marie Semana said. “It has stores and playgrounds, it sounded cool, and there’s a band — so a plus for us.”

Aglow in light from the setting sun, the marina was alive with activity Wednesday evening. Hordes of people stepped off buses and were immediately greeted by an outdoor stage with performances by rotating local bands. Flanked by a cheery crowd, kids and seniors alike danced to the rhythm on a dance floor in front of the stage.

Approximately 2,000 people milled around the marina as the sun slowly sank below the water. A line of food stalls offered eats from empanadas to samosas, reflecting the diversity of the crowd. Tents, towels and tables full of people littered the grass as soft rock music played in the background.

In an adjacent area, kids ran around between bounce houses, face painting stalls and ice cream stands. A walkway running along the water’s edge was home to numerous vendor stalls that sold items ranging from handmade copper jewelry to flavored organic honey to “fookies” — a fudge and cookie mashup.

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Manooshree Patel / Staff

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Manooshree Patel / Staff

“I’m interested in the excitement and the fireworks show,” said Shari Quinn, an author and assistant director of undergraduate admissions at UC Berkeley. “It’s nice to see people together.”

Patty Bruns, the owner of Piccadilly Princess — a craft store that makes princess apparel for various events — said most of her customers throughout the day had been kids. She brought her stall to the festival from Sacramento and said it had been a “real calm, family-oriented event.”

Copper Creations vendor Shawn Ownby said the booth usually appears in San Francisco festivals, and it had come to the Berkeley festival for the first time because of the attendance projections for the event.

“We were told there were supposed to be about 100,000 (people in) foot traffic here,” Ownby said. “It could’ve been a lot better on people, (and) seems to be less poppin’.”

Earlier in the day, visitors had the opportunity to take a dragon boat ride on the marina, courtesy of the Berkeley Racing Canoe Center, as well as take photos at a themed photo booth and watch a martial arts show. Musical performers included jazz funk band Humanistic, “jumpin’ rhythm” band Stompy Jones and rock band Idlewild West.

As night fell and the temperature began its rapid descent, Latin Afro-pop music floated through the crowd from the main stage, courtesy of the band Guarandinga. A bright red, white and blue kiddie train made its final circuit around the parking lot, toting star-spangled and American flag-clad kids and their parents.

Fireworks shot off from San Francisco’s Pier 39 at about 9:30 p.m., prompting disappointed chatter among the massive crowd on the marina shores. Lit up in the distance, the tiny bursts of red and green were marred by a looming cloud of fog settling in above the city.

A short 10 minutes later, fireworks burst from a barge in the middle of the marina, just yards away from the shore. Blue, gold and — of course — bright pink fireworks illuminated the sky in pompous celebration.

“This is everything I came here for!” said a spectator in the crowd.

Revati Thatte is an assistant news editor. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @revati_thatte.