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Berlin Braces for Love Parade

July 9, 1999

BERLIN (AP) _ Ready to bathe under a ``Shower of Love″ and blast their eardrum-shattering music, techno fans began pouring into Berlin on Friday for what could be the city’s last Love Parade.

The annual celebration of techno music, expected to draw 1 million dancers to the heart of Germany’s capital, kicks off Saturday _ but the parties have started early. More than 100,000 people arrived Friday, and more are expected.

Billed as the world’s largest street party, the Love Parade has grown from its beginnings in 1988, when a small group danced behind a VW van through then-West Berlin. It’s become a weekend-long rave that draws fans of the bass-heavy techno beat from around the world.

Organizers promised Friday that Berlin’s central Tiergarten park will be spared the past years’ ecological devastation caused by youths stomping to the pulsing music. Businesses have donated $95,000 to pay for cleanup.

``Everyone can be sure that the Tiergarten on Sunday will be as clean as it was before,″ said Ralf Regitz, one of the parade organizers.

But the Green League, an umbrella group of environmentalists, condemned the event as an ``unecological mass frenzy.″ The problem is not only the 150 tons of garbage the ravers leave behind, but also the high decibels from loudspeakers that scare birds, and the thousands of gallons of urine that poison plants, said Green League spokesman Oliver Pfannenstiel.

Other controversies, though, may make this parade the last for Berlin.

Organizers, upset over the city’s decision to award a contract to sell drinks to an independent firm, have threatened to take their party elsewhere next year _ possibly to Paris.

The Berlin city government, eager not to lose the attention and business the Love Parade brings, said talks with the organizers will begin Sunday on the location of next year’s parade.

Although it may be the last in Berlin, the Love Parade this year won’t be without its firsts.

For the first time, a safe sex campaign will be part of the year’s festivities. Partiers will be given ``Love-Bags″ containing a condom and earplugs.

The Berlin water company plans a 16-foot high ``Shower of Love″ to help clean the sweating dancers.

Also a celebration first will be a parade float paid for by Germany’s Catholic youth group.

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