Issue:  Vol. 48 / No. 8 / 22 February 2018

Gay county
fair hits Castro


Cookie Dough and the Monster Show performed at the 2010 Castro Street Fair; Cookie Dough will be back at this year's event. (Photo: Rick Gerharter)
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It's been San Francisco's gay version of a fall harvest festival for nearly 40 years, and this Sunday the annual Castro Street Fair is fully embracing that heritage.

The 39th installment of the outdoor party has adopted a "County Fair" theme this year, with promotional material sporting an apple pie, a cherry-eating giant-sized rooster, and images of typical amusement park rides. Unfortunately for thrill-ride enthusiasts, there won't be any such offerings at the fair.

"Even though there are silhouettes of a roller coaster and Ferris wheel on the posters, you cannot expect those. That is either good news or bad news depending on who you are," said Fred Lopez, the fair board's president, in detailing plans for the event at a recent Castro merchant meeting. "Maybe we will bring a 50-foot rooster into the Castro."

There will be some trappings typical of county fairs, such as food stalls and live entertainment to vendor booths and arts and crafts.

"We are looking at a petting zoo, but based on our entertainment, it may be more of an adult petting zoo," joked George Ridgely, the fair's executive director.

The late gay Supervisor Harvey Milk, a Castro resident and merchant, began the street fair to celebrate the then-emerging LGBT population of the district as well as to attract business to the local stores. It continues to carry on that tradition while serving as an enormous LGBT block party for local residents.

"The county fair is a tradition for a number of reasons, as is the Castro Street Fair," wrote Lopez in his president's welcome for the event's official guide. "The heart of the matter is bringing neighbors and friends together and celebrating the community that we've all built together."

An estimated 50,000 people are expected to attend. Fair organizers hope that having Folsom Street Fair a week earlier than normal this year may increase attendance.

"Having that week in between may encourage locals to go to the Castro Street Fair. In the past I do know some people are tired out by Folsom," said Lopez, a fund development associate at Lyon-Martin Health Services and a bartender at the Lone Star Saloon.

The fair will raise money for 29 local nonprofits through its beverage booth proceeds and donations at the gate. Beneficiaries this year include local public schools and AIDS service providers and gay athletic clubs and LGBT civic groups. It has given out nearly $80,000 to community groups since its inception.

Entertainers include Bay Area musical groups Le Vice, an indie hip-hop and R&B band, indie rockers Roosevelt Radio, and the San Francisco-based quartet French Cassettes. All three are among the line-up playing the community stage at Market and Castro streets, hosted by local gay comic Casey Lee.

Reprising their roles as co-hosts of the Red Rock Stage, located at 18th and Collingwood streets, are local drag queen Cookie Dough and Drew Droege, whose online video sendups of actress Chloe Sevigny have brought him national acclaim. Performers at the stage this year include glam rockers Rubber Side Down; singer/songwriter Darius Lux; and queer synth rock band Corpus Hideous.

The popular dance stage – featuring DJs Twist, Ellen Ferrato, Jim Hopkins, and Guy Ruben – and the country music stage hosted by Sundance Saloon are both back. As is the World of Wonderment, the fair's version of a midway with amusements like the Pin the Mustache on the Drag King, Come Corn-Holin' with the Pleasure Pigz, and Ask a Whore Advice Booth.

The Bay Area Reporter will have a presence at the fair with its own booth and raffle contest. Two lucky winners will walk away with either a one-year lease for a 2013 Volkswagen Jetta courtesy of Royal Automotive Group or a four-night stay at the Maui Sunseeker Resort, the largest LGBT property in the Hawaiian Islands, and round trip airfare for two via Alaska Airlines.

The GLBT Historical Society's museum space at 4127 18th Street will be open free of charge the day of the fair thanks to Starbucks, which is seeking support to open a new coffee shop on Market Street at Sanchez.

The Castro Street Fair takes place from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday, October 7. There is a sliding scale suggested donation of $5 to $10 at the gate.

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