The 44th annual Solano Avenue Stroll, which returns Sept. 9 in Albany and Berkeley, is the largest street fair in the East Bay. More than 150,000 people fill the one-mile commercial corridor from San Pablo to The Alameda, and the Solano Avenue Association, which stages the event, estimates that some 300,000 people come to the avenue “during the course of the day.”
The stroll is held “Invariably the second Sunday in September,” as the association notes on its website. But that wasn’t always the case. In its earliest years, the stroll was a weekday evening event, and it was only for the Berkeley part of the avenue. According to a history page on the Solano Avenue Association website, the event “was organized in 1974 as a ‘thank-you’ party for customers by the Thousand Oaks Merchant Association led by Lisa Burnham and Ira Klein.”
That arrangement continued for seven years before it was expanded in 1981 to include both the Berkeley and Albany portions of the avenue, now closed to motor traffic for the day.
In 2000, U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee successfully submitted the stroll as a “Local Legacy” as part of the American Folklife Center of the U.S. Library of Congress.
This year’s celebration starts with the traditional parade at 10 a.m. and continues to 5 p.m. with some 50 entertainers, 50 food booths, 150 juried hand-crafters, and a kids area with rides and games.