Oakland Celebrates Chinatown Business, Culture

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					The Pioneer
                                                                                                                                                                                                               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-
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          mation booths.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             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
                                                                         of California.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          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
StreetFest.
                                                                         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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