Rain dampens crowds, not enthusiasm, at Telegraph fair

The 30th Annual Telegraph Avenue Holiday Fair opened this weekend under rainy skies. Photo: Ted Friedman

The 30th Annual Telegraph Avenue Holiday Fair opened this weekend under rainy skies. Photo: Ted Friedman

By Ted Friedman

The 30th annual Telegraph Avenue Holiday Street Fair opened this weekend, but crowds were sparse at times because of the rain.

Booths went up Friday morning under a light drizzle, which worsened by 1 p.m. Early Saturday afternoon, umbrellas went up during a downpour which lasted around an hour and a half. It was mostly overcast on Sunday.

“It was not a good day for me,” Clifford Seely, 79, a jeweler who has been selling at the fair for 30 years, said Friday as he packed up to leave around 3 p.m.

“It was worth my time, but not as good as last year,” said David (Doc) Sammon, a regular Telegraph Avenue vendor.

Fair goers and vendors bundled up when the rain came down. Photo: Ted Friedman

Fair goers and vendors bundled up when the rain came down. Photo: Ted Friedman

Vendors at the fair came from as far away as Colorado, Nevada, and Utah, said Janet Klein, who has been at the fair’s helm for nine years, and previously worked for it for 16 years. Artists who have sold at the fair in the past have given it good word-of-mouth, which means that artists come from around the country.

“We have a lot of vendors from Los Angeles,” Klein said.

Klein tries to strike a balance between bringing in licensed and unlicensed vendors. She is very strict about keeping the fair about authentic crafts by barring anything not made by the artist who sells it. On Saturday morning she ejected a vendor who was hawking small fish-tanks in kit form. She said they did not fit the fair’s guidelines.

Paul Ogren sells what he calls "nuclear jewelry." Photo: Ted Friedman

Paul Ogren sells what he calls “nuclear jewelry.” Photo: Ted Friedman

Paul Ogren, a jeweler whose work is sold in gift shops at major museums, was at the fair this weekend for the second year in a row. Ogren’s company, From War to Peace, sells what he terms “nuclear jewelry.” It is made from copper cable that has been used in the wiring of nuclear missile systems. But Ogren said you would not explode if you wear his jewelry.

Ogren said sales were slow on Friday “when people who make money are out making money.” But he said “as Christmas nears, it will be better.”

Lapidary artist Fred Rosefeather decided to sell his crafts at the Telegraph Holiday Art Fair after a local art gallery owner in his hometown of San Luis Obispo told him to “go to Berkeley; you’re too good for this town.” Rosefeather was exuberant about the welcome he received from other vendors.

The lapidary jewelry of Fred Rosefeather. Photo: Ted Friedman

The lapidary jewelry of Fred Rosefeather. Photo: Ted Friedman

Some vendors have exhibited at the fair for ten years or more. Others, like Seely, have deeper roots with the event.

Perennial favorites are wallets, bill folds, purses, briefcases, belt buckles, jewelry, and ceramics. But off-beat items, like Stewart Bumford’s risqué electrical outlet covers, with the switch strategically placed, are one-of-a-kind.

One vendor was selling a concept piece in a box. When you looked down into the box, you saw the light gathering on a lens. But in Friday’s light drizzle there was not much light. “It doesn’t work well in rainy weather,” said its creator, Paula Chang, from Belmont.

The Telegraph Avenue Holiday Street Fair stretches along upper Telegraph and will also run next weekend, Dec. 22-24, from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Ted Friedman is a longtime Berkeley resident who specializes in writing about Berkeley’s south side.

To find out about more events in Berkeley and nearby, visit Berkeleyside’s Events Calendar. We also encourage you to submit your own events.

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  • Guest

    Very nice article. I’ve enjoyed going to this street fair for years and it never disappoints. Too bad about the rain.

  • Bill N

    It’s always been a treat to go and even if you didn’t buy anything or bought very little the people watching was great. Maybe I missed something but there seemed to be little or no advertising of the fair this year.

  • M.E. Lawrence

    I’m not always convinced that Bates is Berkeley at its best, as his motto claims, but the fair is.

  • the Deer

    Thanks for the story! Now if people can buy some things from the street vendors, they might get to have a good holiday too! Wishing the Ave gets some holiday lights up… There used to be holiday wreaths and lights up.. Another thing to brighten and cheer up all who work hard to make something local be a good thing!

  • Iris

    It’s the responsibility of the promoter to use some of the money from vendor fees for advertising. Most vendors pay about $ 100.- per day to Janet Klein, and it seems she doesn’t spent much on advertising.

  • Glenn I

    Went Sunday. Bought fragrant soaps and fancy masks. What a deal!

  • Fred Rosefeather

    We found the Berkeley Telegraph Avenue Holiday Street Fair to be full of friendly and down to earth folks, both vendors and those who attended the event. We appreciated very much Janet Klein’s welcome and support and in our experience, which is long and varied in the Art show business, the fair was well run and the rain did not dampen the spirits of the Art loving patrons. Unique Lapidary Designs.