Downtown Berlin’s main park was transformed Saturday into a sea of gyrating techno fans, blowing whistles and dancing ecstatically to booming beats as the German capital’s Love Parade hit the streets for its 14th year.
Throngs of scantily clad revelers, many sporting garishly colored hair and outlandish outfits or clambering onto traffic signs and street lamps, crowded around 45 techno floats as they made their way from the edges of the Tiergarten park toward the Victory Column, the center point of the daylong event.
Still, police estimated at only about 500,000 the number of people who turned out – a little more than half last year’s figure of 800,000 and far short of the record 1.5 million who came in 1999. Organizers said some 750,000 people attended.
The Love Parade began in 1989 as a small procession of 150 ravers, and has since developed into a Berlin institution and a massive tourist draw.
“I had no idea it would be so exciting,” said Jenny Schneider, a 21-year-old from Bismarck, N.D., who is studying German in the city of Freiburg. “People said it would be like Woodstock, but it’s actually much, much better.”
“It’s beautiful – everywhere there’s beautiful music,” said Leszek Czupuyniak, 23, from the Polish city of Katowice, who was dancing energetically. “This is my life.”
In response to long-standing complaints from environmentalists that partiers relieving themselves and throwing garbage into the city’s main Tiergarten park destroy the trees and flowers, organizers have pledged to be more vigilant in monitoring the event this year.
Some 2,000 police officers and 1,000 medical workers were on hand, and parade organizers have hired a company to clean up after Saturday’s daylong event at a cost of about $138,500. They also deployed ushers in an effort to keep ravers in check.
By mid-evening, police said 58 people had been arrested, mostly for drug-related offenses, but they reported no major problems.
This year’s Love Parade – the 14th – has been spared the chaotic buildup that marred last year’s event. Environmentalists last year forced the event to be pushed back a week from its usual second Saturday in July, beating Love Parade organizers in applying for a demonstration permit for that day.
This time, the parade had the cloud of a possible terrorist threat hanging over it as well, even though Berlin police have said a report they received of a plot to set off a bomb during the festival was unsubstantiated. Police said the security level at the parade was similar to last year’s.