A&E Thursday, August 29, 2001 5
Oakland Celebrates Chinatown Business, Culture
By Karen Coleman Oakland.”
One of the street fair’s hall-
pan-alley stretch of booths with sor, the Chinatown Chamber, has
about 430 members.
service agencies staffed infor-
As the first night of the fair drew
to a close, a lone protester took
Staff Writer games like a roulette wheel and
marks is its Cultural Village, basketball hoops that was spon- Many big companies who do Sponsors included banks like advantage of his freedom of ex-
N early 10 blocks of
Franklin Street in down-
town Oakland seemed more like
an arts and craft area spon-
sored by the Oakland Museum
Bank of America and Bank of the
Orient, the City of Oakland, the
Port of Oakland and corporations
pression, standing on a bucket
decorated with a photograph of
U.S. presidents Ford through
East Asia than usual last weekend,
as vendors and patrons from inside
Kids could join hands-on ac-
tivities such as making Chinese “It’s an ethnic event,” said Ong, like Clorox and General Motors.
For corporations and social agen-
Clinton, and brandished signs
with Chinese slogans and news-
the community and out converged dough figurines and tying Korean cies, Ong said, the Chinatown paper clippings.
for the city’s annual Chinatown
ornamental knots. In addition,
master artisans demonstrated
“but we have a sprinkling of every- fair was a unique opportunity to
market products and services to
A Chinese-speaking passerby
said he agreed with the
The polyglot bazaar of
Chinatown spilled out into the
Korean paper folding, brush
painting and calligraphy. thing, basically to show that we all people where they live.
“Maybe it’s because of the
protester’s grievances, described
as opposition to this country’s
streets on Aug. 24 and 25, multiply- Activities for kids also in- economic downswing. . . . I think support for movements like
ing by many times the usual week-
end commercial and tourist traffic.
cluded more typical fair fare, in-
cluding pneumatically inflated
need to get along in Oakland.” that even the corporations feel that
it is good to use grassroots commu-
Falun Gong in the name of free-
dom of religion.
According to Jennie Ong, playground-type games, a climb- nity outreach today,” Ong said. Some critics here and in China
Oakland Chinatown Chamber of ing wall and representatives The Chinatown festival is the say that U.S.-style civil liberties
Commerce executive director, from local pro sports teams. sored by the Safeway grocery business in Oakland had booths largest event of its kind in the standards undermine the author-
who has been the program direc- As the party wound down on store chain. or sponsored elements of the Bay Area and is held on the ity of the Chinese government.
tor for the festival for the past 12 Saturday, the day’s most mixed The decor of the booths was fair and several community fourth weekend of each August.
years, more than 100,000 people crowd kicked up its heels to pure shopping, with colorful cans
showed up for the two-day Kenny Menard Zydeco, playing and boxes of American-brand
event. The street fair included the American folk music genre groceries providing the backdrop
300 vending booths, as well as created from Louisiana black and for the games.
music, art and cooking shows. Cajun cultures. In lieu of giant, stuffed ani-
“I thought the festival was When spectators began jump- mal toys, the booths offered
awesome this year; it was the ing out of their seats, the dance floor little trial-size sample pack-
biggest and best yet,” said Ong. had sporty, older suburbanites rub- ages of grocery items, like po-
As on quieter weekends, bing elbows with rumpled, ganja- tato chips and crackers.
Chinatown vendors offered the smoking young people. Papered with commercial ad-
eclectic mix of merchandise, from A few blocks away, the Chi- vertisements outside, each booth
tchotchkes made in China to nese pop group 2Xist sang popu- was decorated with a red paper
California-grown produce for Chi- lar rock and roll hits in Chinese lantern and banner.
nese cooking. As in many of the and Japanese. The teenage “Sponsors allow us to ex-
shops, several vending booths in- group was decked out in t-shirts, pand our offerings at the fes-
cluded plenty of junk from Taiwan jeans and headset microphones, tival,” said Ong.
and Japan - toys games and other and displayed moves inspired by the She said she had heard some
consumer goods made for the Chi- ancient Chinese ‘N Sync tradition. criticism of the event’s increas-
nese, Japanese and U.S. markets. This was an event that had ing commercialization, but she
All in all, the environment in room for both Chinese lucky cat said sponsorship dollars have
Oakland was more like Hong statues and Japan’s trademark been in step with the event’s in-
Kong than the mainland. The ad- cat, the Sanrio Hello Kitty cartoon creasing costs.
mixture of international culture character. Chinese and Japanese “Everything is relative,” she
and products would arouse con- versions of rock and roll and said. “Sanitation, private security
cern in even the most pro-mar- karaoke were also available. and even the Oakland Police De-
ket factions of the continent’s At one end of the fair, chefs partment cost money. This is a
People’s Republic. at the cooking show stage dem- free festival, and all of those
Here, however, it was just onstrated how to make Chinese things have gone up.”
Oakland being Oakland, with stir-fry and hot and sour soup as Ong declined to specify the
every kind of people, business well as lessons in French, Italian costs and income generated by
and amusement represented. and German cooking. the event. She estimated that
“It’s an ethnic event,” said And, of course, corporation- corporate sponsorships were up
Ong, “but we have a sprinkling sponsored activities, displays 10 to 15 percent this year.
of everything, basically to show and booths were ubiquitous. The Chinatown StreetFest has
that we all need to get along in Probably the strangest was a tin- been going on for 15 years. Its spon-
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