44th annual Solano Avenue Stroll gathers families, politicians and protestors

Sakura Cannestra/Staff

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The 44th annual Solano Avenue Stroll, hosted by the Solano Avenue Association, or SAA, bustled with artisans selling their crafts, teenagers hanging out and families visiting from all over Albany and Berkeley.

Solano Avenue — which runs partly in Berkeley and partly in Albany — was closed from The Alameda to San Pablo Avenue on Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. for a celebration with both a variety of booths and a parade. Members of the parade belonged to a wide range of organizations, from political representatives to local schools to protest groups.

Members of the California Nurses Association, or CNA, marched in the parade to support Alta Bates Medical Center, which is scheduled to close its doors by 2030.

“It’s going to take a really wide community effort. … This festival brings the East Bay together,” said Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguín, who was marching with the CNA crowd. “This is part of why we want to be here in the parade.”

District 1 Berkeley City Council candidate Igor Tregub marched with the CNA in the parade as well, along with District 8 candidate Mary Kay Lacey and District 4 City Council member and candidate Kate Harrison. They all voiced support for the movement, and Harrison highlighted the importance of community organizing.

Behind them in the parade was the El Cerrito Preschool Cooperative, or ECPC, which eventually took home first place in the “Best Parade” competition. ECPC parents pulled their children, clad in safari hats and green shirts, in wagons decorated with paper trees.

According to ECPC Board President Tim Clarke, the majority of the parents and children in the parade had only been part of the ECPC community for about a month, yet the number of families who attended the parade was double that of last year.

“Last year, we had probably half the people, and the kids were really kind of tired about halfway through,” Clarke said. “But this year, it was like the kids bounced off their parents, and their parents bounced off the kids.”

Planning for the Solano Avenue Stroll began three months prior, according to SAA Vice President Jason Bellevue. He also emphasized that it’s been “a very peaceful day,” with no fights or issues breaking out without being resolved.

Bellevue also said the Solano Stroll is the largest “block party of its kind” in California. Throughout the day, there were approximately 250,000 people in the crowd at any given time, according to SAA Secretary Jan Snidow, with about 60 organizations participating in the parade.

“It’s been going fantastic,” said SAA President Jennifer Hansen-Romero. “As a third-generation Albany-Berkeley resident, I’ve been coming to the Stroll since I’ve been a girl.”

Contact Sakura Cannestra at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @SakuCannestra.