For a few minutes midday on Friday, October 8, 2010, Telegraph Avenue experienced a burst of color, oddity, and originality out in the street as well as on the sidewalks. A group of art cars came to town.
The impromptu parade—which went up Telegraph from Dwight to Bancroft, circled round, and passed by again—was arranged by Marc Weinstein, owner of Amoeba Music on the corner of Telegraph and Haste.
In past years a platoon of art cars appeared annually in Berkeley. They were a fixture of the “How Berkeley Can You Be Parade.”
“We’ve been sponsoring it (an art car visit) all these years and this year there was no parade so as a favor they came by”, said Weinstein, who knows many of the car owners.
Horn toots, woof howls, and applause sounded along Telegraph in front of the Berkeley Amoeba store as more than 20 decorated cars passed by during the lunch hour.
They had come up from the Sea Breeze Market in West Berkeley, Weinstein said. They included a yellow shark, a Volkswagen butterfly, a car bursting with day-glo flowers and squirrels, a “Deco Kar” (according to the personalized license plate), and another Volkswagen with a silver surfer figure lying on the hood.
A number of the elaborately and whimsically decorated vehicles resembled the brightly painted, arched and muraled, façade of the Amoeba store. Drivers smiled and waved, and small dogs peered at the passing scene, from some of the cars.
As the cars motored on up Telegraph, at the campus end of the Avenue a spirit rally for the UCLA football game on Saturday was just finishing up in crowded Sproul Plaza.
In a Berkeley cultural convergence singing Cal Band members came down the Plaza past the Student Union while art cars turned past at Bancroft and Telegraph.
I watched the car parade by from the sidewalk where a small group stood including Weinstein, Telegraph Area Association Executive Director Roland Peterson, and John Solomon, the founder and long-time organizer of the “How Berkeley Can You Be?” parade that last took place in 2008; he seemed pleased and nostalgic to see a line of art cars filling a Berkeley street again.
“There should be a parade on Telegraph”, I said. We mused about a parade that might start further down Telegraph, on the wider blocks south of Dwight, and proceed up to the shopping district, maybe even go through Sproul Plaza and make the campus part of the route.
It could be a true fusion of town and gown, with a mix of both campus and community marching participants—from art cars to the Cal Band, for instance—and spectators from both parts of town.
Who would organize it? How would it run? Who would pay for it? Who knows? No one standing there was necessarily in a position to take the lead. Some new, energetic, organizing group or individual would have to emerge to make a new mark on Berkeley culture and character.
As the “How Berkeley Can You Be?” website now says, “We regretfully do not have plans to produce the event again in the near future but who knows what will happen…after all, it is BERKELEY!”
Photos: All Steven Finacom
Amoeba Records owner Marc Weinstein (left), who invited the car owners to do an informal parade, watches them drive past.
Several of the cars complemented the colorful facade of the Berkeley Amoeba Records store.
As the art cars moved north on Telegraph, the Cal Band was headed south through Sproul Plaza after finishing a Homecoming game spirit rally.
Cal Rally Committee members clustered on the Savio Steps following the rally.