July 15, 2006

Berlin Love Parade Back After Three-Year Absence

By Michael Atkins

BERLIN - Berlin's "Love Parade" returned on Saturday with around half a million revelers attending the gigantic techno-music party on the streets of the German capital a mere one week after the end of the soccer World Cup.

Dancers wore elaborate costumes or gyrated in their under-garments to deafening bass rhythms produced by disc jockeys on giant flat-bed trucks riding along a 3-km (2 mile) stretch near the Tiergarten Park and Brandenburg Gate.

Police said as many as two hundred thousand more could yet attend the party later on Saturday.

The parade was resuscitated this year after financial turmoil forced its cancellation in 2004 and 2005. "The Love is Back" is the motto of the 2006 version, which runs all day and into the evening before ravers move on to nightclubs.

"This is great! I've been waiting three years for this," said Berliner Nicole Koehler, 25. "Hopefully it will be here every year from now on."

With the help of a new sponsor, a German fitness studio, the party that traces its roots to 1989 is spreading beyond the techno music scene to include all forms of electronic music.

revelers from around the world arrived on Saturday morning with painted faces and wearing exotic garb.

"I think there are actually more strange-looking people this year. Maybe everyone is still in a festive mood from the World Cup," said New Yorker David Wollenberg, 24, who attended the 2003 parade.

Some, however, were disappointed. "It's okay but not as good as before," said Patrick Blume, a 28-year-old from Nuremberg. "There are not as many people, but that may be because it's the first one in three years."

The parade gained immense popularity throughout the 90s, peaking in 1999 with 1.5 million attendees. It also inspired similar festivals across Europe, the Middle East, Africa and North America.

The event was stripped of its "political demonstration" status in 2001, and costs of essential services like blocking off roads, relocating bus stops and cleaning up debris were no longer covered by the city.