No booze of floats for "Bay to Breakers"

February 11, 2009 4:24:13 PM PST
San Francisco ING Bay to Breakers event organizers said eliminating alcohol and floats from the annual 12K race is the best way to improve it this year, but some regular participants think the idea is just off the rocker.

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The race, which is in its 98th year, draws thousands of people to the city's streets and is known for its costumes, nudity and general flamboyance typically accompanied by booze.

Last year, tens of thousands of people took over the streets from the Embarcadero to Ocean Beach dressed as cheerleaders, drag queens, superheroes and other characters.

Race spokeswoman Danielle Clark said that this year, organizers are issuing a zero-tolerance policy on alcohol and forbidding floats with wheels. But some participants said regulating the event is taking the spirit out of it.

San Francisco resident Christina Lee, 25, walked with a group of people, some who were registered, last year and said the event was harmless and should not change.

"People may be doing something stupid like sitting in a grocery cart and bombing down a hill, but no one gets violent. It's just a happy event," Lee said. "I don't understand why they would want to cut out all the fun."

Clark said registered runners need to be able to maneuver through the crowd, and floats just get in the way. Public drinking slows the whole race and annoys people who are actually registered and the neighbors who deal with the mess and noise, she said.

This year, about 6,000 people have already registered to run in the May 17 competition. She said it is in the best interest of the registered runners and neighbors to take away obstacles.

"I don't have specific plans regarding how they'll enforce that," she said. "But these decisions were made based on feedback through the neighborhoods and participants, people who registered (to run)."

But San Francisco resident Bryan Plescia, 26, who was a registered runner last year and drank alcohol along the way, said the people who are serious about the race start before anyone else while the rest of the crowd follows. Plescia said eliminating booze and floats is eliminating the essence of the event.

"It's insane. It's what Bay to Breakers is. It's not really a race, and everyone knows that," Plescia said.

San Francisco police Sgt. Lyn Tomioka said police officers and representatives from Mayor Gavin Newsom's office met Tuesday to discuss how they will approach the occasion.

Tomioka said the preparation will remain in the planning stages for a while.

"When you've got thousands of people running, you're looking at a lot of issues," she said.

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