Berkeley welcomes fall season with annual Harvest Festival

Zainab Ali/Senior Staff

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As the autumn winds swept into Berkeley on Saturday, so did the city’s annual Harvest Festival, hosted by the city’s Parks, Recreation and Waterfront department. Throughout the afternoon-long event, community members reaped the rewards of the season with music, games and harvest-themed events in Cedar Rose Park.

More than 100 people attended the event, which also featured vendors and food trucks. Attendees had a wide range of activities to choose from throughout the day, including a rock wall at one edge of the park, a petting zoo and pumpkin bowling and decorating.

Caroline Papas, an Albany resident, attended the festival with her 10-year-old daughter after she saw a flier during a school field trip to the park.

“(She’s) been talking about it for two weeks. … I think it’s bringing everyone together today, especially kids,” Papas said. She added that her daughter spent the whole afternoon engrossed in games and collecting tickets.

Kaht Dorward, who lives in Berkeley and had attended the event in previous years, said she was impressed by this year’s turnout.

“I think it’s just a great idea. … It really pulls together interesting things for all ages in a neighborhood event,” Dorward said.

Dorward’s s son also played at the festival as part of the band Gone Fishing, composed of Berkeley High School students. Ryan Cohen, one of the band members, said the festival was one of the biggest crowds the group has gotten to play for.

According to Denise Brown, recreation and youth services manager in the Parks, Recreation and Waterfront department, one of the festival’s focuses this year was to promote sustainability with an emphasis on food systems. Booths across the park featured local farmers, representatives from community garden groups and others involved in the organic food business.

“(It’s) about the community raising and preparing healthy food, giving people access of all income levels,” Brown said. “People can take seeds home to grow and can learn about healthy eating and food preparation.”

Brown also said organizers sought to “show off” the department itself. In one area of the park, attendees could step into mowers, tractors and other equipment used in parks maintenance, which proved popular with younger attendees.

Linda Currie, co-founder of Transition Berkeley, hosted a booth facilitating a crop swap for attendees. People could bring in harvests from their own gardens to exchange with fellow community members.

“(The) idea is to share information and inspire each other to grow food (and) eat food. … We really want people to connect,” Currie said.

The festival lasted from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. and remained abuzz throughout the afternoon with raffles, cooking demos and a constant stream of music.

Contact Camryn Bell at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @cbell_DC.