This weekend, when around 30,000 students and faculty stroll through Caltopia, browsing the booths of more than 100 exhibitors, Berkeley’s two driving forces, the city and its university, will be pitched in perfect harmony. And Berkeleyside will be there to sing along too.

Caltopia was launched nine years ago as a way for Berkeley businesses to welcome Cal students, both current and new, back to school. The event runs on Sunday and Monday this year, and classes start up on campus next Thursday.

“It’s become a rite of passage, a welcome week tradition,” says a spokesperson for UC Berkeley’s Department of Recreational Sports which orchestrates the gigantic event. He says Caltopia was originally created as a platform for Cal Recreational Sports to reintroduce its programs and services to the campus, as well as to provide campus groups, local and Bay Area businesses and national brands with a responsible way to engage with Cal students

Think of Caltopia as a great street festival, one that is welcoming to families and safe – alcohol is banned from the event and businesses and services are vetted to ensure their offerings align with the majority student audience.

Many local businesses at Caltopia will be hoping to convert those attending the event into valuable consumers. According to the UC Berkeley Economic Impact Study, Cal students contribute $395 million annually into the Bay Area economy, of which, $294 million stays in Berkeley

Berkeleyside will be at Caltopia to raise awareness of our site among a significant and important Berkeley constituency. We will also be launching a very exciting new product (more on that later), and have partnered with a host of wonderful Berkeley businesses to give out some fabulous raffle prizes to Caltopia participants – worth over $600. Through the raffles we hope to introduce incoming Cal students to many of the great businesses and services on their doorstep.

Berkeleyside would like to thank the following businesses for their generosity in providing gift certificates: Ajanta, Axis Optical, Berkeley Hat Company, Books Inc., Cioccolata Di Vino, Ecology Center, Elmwood Café, Fantastic Comics, Friends of the Berkeley Public Library, Gather Restaurant, Hotel Shattuck Plaza, Ideologie, Impact Theatre, iScream, Joshu-ya Brasserie,, Moe’s BooksMrs. Dalloway’s, Pegasus, Phil’s Sliders, PiQ, Powell’s Sweet Shoppe, Revival Café, Rudy’s Can’t Fail Café, Saul’s Deli, Shattuck Plaza Hotel, Shoes on Solano, Slash Jeans, Summer Kitchen Bake Shop, and Venus Restaurant.

A second raffle prize comes courtesy of  LaVals Pizza and Northside Travel: free pizza for a year, worth over $400. How could anyone resist?

Even if you’re not lucky enough to win one of our raffles – the winners will be announced on Berkeleyside on Wednesday August 24th, one prize for students, one for Cal staff and faculty – we encourage you to patronize these great Berkeley businesses and spend your money in the city to boost our local economy.

Caltopia is on Sunday August 21 and Monday August 22, 10am-4pm, at the UC Berkeley Recreational Sports Facility at 2301 Bancroft Way. Admission is free. Full details can be found on the Caltopia website.

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Tracey Taylor is co-founder of Berkeleyside and co-founder and editorial director of Cityside, the nonprofit parent to Berkeleyside and The Oaklandside. Before launching Berkeleyside, Tracey wrote for...