Stroll builds community network

Annual festival raises funds, brings people together

Participants with Cornell Elementary Afterschool Program perform for viewers during the Solano Stroll on Solano Avenue in Albany on Sunday.

By Dylan Collier, Advocate Staff

ALBANY — Families and vendors alike enjoyed the sunny day at the 42nd annual Solano Stroll on Sunday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., along a two-mile stretch on Solano Avenue in here.

With rides at the beginning and end of Solano and vendors spread throughout the middle, it offered something for everyone.

Filmmaker and father of two Ian Burbage expressed his feelings about what the stroll had to offer for the younger generations.

“Yeah, it’s definitely very family oriented and there are three toy shops on this street alone. There are three kid’s consignment shops where they sell clothes and toys. This is a lot bigger than I thought it would be,” Burbage said.

Parents and community members took an active role in raising money for their local high school programs.

Albany High School volleyball fundraiser volunteer Suzanne Frew and Albany High Athletic Boosters Treasurer Yasmin Wofford managed tables selling t-shirts and tickets for a raffle that would fund the grad night trip for senior-year students.

“Albany is such a small school district and our geographic region isn’t as large as El Cerrito or Richmond, so we have to raise money for the volleyball team,” Frew said. “Every family donates $200 to the volleyball team.

“The parents have to come up with half the budget for the entire athletic department at Albany High.”

Wofford described how their largest revenue was through T-shirt sales and had a goal of raising $2,000, which would surpass the $1,300 they made last year. They dropped the price per shirt by $5 each at the stroll.

“We buy our shirts in bulk through Mary & Joes, who sells them to the Albany School District and gives us a discounted rate on the shirts for fundraising,” Wofford said.

But Wofford said his favorite part of the Solano Stroll was the camaraderie of the community, seeing the diversity in the neighborhoods, and re-connecting with old friends.

Store owner of Arts Africans, Aisha Kone, drove from Emeryville to sell her authentic products, which come all the way from Africa.

The broad array of products-from the bracelets, to hats, to the African beads, to the leather sandals-all come from Africa. Kone said her intention was to not merely turn a profit, since it was her first year at the Solano Stroll, but also to grow their business through community connections.

“Our goal is to network, and let people know about our appreciation for African products. We have homemade bracelets from Mali, which show a different side of African culture,” she said.

The intricately handcrafted safari-horn spoon sets were made out of wood for the handles, with the bottom made out of cow bone.

Other people counted strongly on turning a profit to not only come out ahead of what they paid for their spot, but to support their entire family.

You could see East Bay resident Louis Morales’ Native American roots glimmering through his precious products that he took much pride in making.

“I have been coming to the ‘Solano Stroll’ for 12 years, and my family and I, whom I traveled with from Oakland, make all of the products together. Everything is very authentic and I rely on all my sales as a street vendor because I don’t have my own shop,” Morales said.

Morales’ bracelets seemed to sell like hotcakes, ranging anywhere from $3 to $30. The materials that the bracelets were made out of included metals, leather and bone.

“I can make one bracelet in three to four hours,” Morales said.