Berkeley Fair to Remember

by Steed Dropout
Dec. 29, 2015

Hail Solar: hail hitting the tent. Photo by Ted Friedman

There’s something about Berkeley’s annual Holiday street fair. Our job is to finger that something.

You can assist. We’ll do a sing along. Follow the bouncing finger from C.B. deMile’s the Greatest Show on Earth.”

“…so take today and make it gay
For there are too many tears along the way….”


Tents arrive well before fair time. Only bad weather can dampen the excitement and this year it did, as hail, rain, and wind challenged vendors’ survival.

As vendors wrestle the winds for their tents, there is an excitement to match Barnum and Bailey.

Fair pharaoh Janet Klein in her last tent tussle. Photo by Ted Friedman

The Telegraph holiday fair is either the greatest show on earth or the smallest greatest show on earth. At least it can be the gustiest or gutsy-est.

Why gutsy. Because vendors are attracted to risk and adventure, as accountants are not. At the fair, vendors’ lifestyles are hung out, along with their wares. Some have their rents on the line.

but not this guy who shills for window installation. Photo by Ted Friedman

Vendors seem to like it that way. If they bomb, as some did this year—as usual—they know that a marketing miracle is just around the corner, as it was for ‘Doc’ one year.

“I had barely unpacked my [sculptured sandstone] pipes, when I was bought out,” Doc told me. “Eighteen pipes.”

Some of the vendors who like it that way are engineers, lawyers, and gallery artists, who couldn’t live any other style.

Fair pharaoh, Janet Klein,13 years running the fair, says that “some [vendors] win and some lose.”

Klein, who retires this year, has made a lot of friends doing what she does, and a few detractors. It’s a tough job, Klein says beginning when the previous fair ends.

Berkeley's Telegraph holiday fair pharaoh, Janet Klein, minutes from closing out 13 year reign, but first one last glitch, a car-scratch beef, xmas Eve.
Photo by Ted Friedman

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