By Lauren Brande and Rula Al-Nasrawi
Gender/Sexuality Reporter and Diversity Editor

A woman runs by, her vibrant spandex body suit glinting in the sun, neon hair wildly trailing behind her, as she chases a golden float decorated with scantily clad dancers bumping to a hard techno thrum. This occurrence is only to be expected at San Francisco LoveFest 2008.

SF LoveFest, an annual celebration of peace, love, unity and respect, begins as a parade through the city, drawing in ample groups of people of all variations. Floats thumping all sorts of DJ beats spark groovy moves in spectators and participants alike.

The parade travels down Market Street, through the heart of the city, and ends at the Civic Center. The floats surround the plaza, morphing the street line into a massive celebration.

Joshua Smith, one of the co-founders of LoveFest, put in tremendous effort to make this event the phenomenon it is today.

“If people believe in music, they can believe that it is important to get the next generation involved with music,” Smith said. “Plus it’s a heck of a good time!”

Each year, the festival brings in all types of people, embracing the differences between everyone — race, sexual orientation, nationality, political affiliation, etc. — and breaks down the parameters, to bond the individuals into one passionate mass.

“This is important, to come out and support an event that’s really focused around bringing people together,” Smith said.

This San Francisco tradition was inspired by Love Parade Berlin, which began in Germany as a fight for peace and worldwide unity using the medium of music.

Matthias “Dr. Motte” Roeingh, the event’s founder, believed that music is the ultimate solution to international boundaries because it is the one language that everyone understands.

Love Parade Berlin originally began four months before the fall of the Berlin Wall with a pick-up truck that drove up and down one of the main shopping streets of the city, playing music as loud as the stereo would allow. This brought the people together, inspiring the annual event.

In the mid-1990s, San Francisco night owls visited Berlin and were immediately enthralled, craving a similar festival closer to home. In 2004, the puzzle pieces came together and Love Parade San Francisco was born. By 2006 it officially became known as SF LoveFest.

“Someone tapped me on the shoulder in early 2001 and said, ‘Would you be kind enough to play a role in coordinating some people to make this happen?’” Smith said, “And the rest is history.”

Since LoveFest is a nonprofit charitable event, all donations are recycled back into the community organizations that brought the weekend together and used to plan and execute the next year’s show.

A portion of the proceeds from the overall event go toward music scholarships, putting music gear in schools and supporting music programs. The directors, crew, and float-makers were all volunteers, making this a truly grassroots jamboree.

Jonathan Will, a DJ at LoveFest from the disc jockey collective Pink Mammoth, played an important role in providing music and entertainment for LoveFest attendees.

“LoveFest is a great excuse for DJ communities and local communities to come together. We’re very interested in the vibe and the positivity,” Will said. “It’s an expression of creativity and the talent within our city.”

Santa Cruzans across the county flocked to San Francisco to experience this day of appreciation for humanity.

“I liked watching the dynamics of how the people flowed from sound spot to sound spot and it was somewhat like a river,” said Erik LaDue, a UC Santa Cruz second-year. “It was cool to see how different types of people would form different currents. As normal life progresses on, it’s sort of like you can take a break from all that. It can have no meaning for anyone. You just do it.”

With the looming economic issues, hurricane trauma, and monumental political decisions afflicting the country this year, a day of dance and affection was a much-needed break to remind people of the joy that life can hold.

The techno-trance, drum and bass, sweat and glitter brought out the raver in everyone. In the words of Dr. Motte, “This is our future. Open your heart … Free your mind … Face your fears … Live your soul … Dance!”