SF LGBT center to oversee Pink Saturday
by Matthew S. Bajko
The San Francisco LGBT Community Center has agreed to oversee this year's Pink Saturday party in the Castro over Pride weekend, the Bay Area Reporter has learned.
The center is seeking to hire an event producer on a contract basis to help plan for the party, set to take place June 27. Gay District 8 Supervisor Scott Wiener, who lives near where the party is held, and LGBT center officials on Thursday will publicly announce the new community sponsor for the yearly event.
"I think it makes a lot of sense. The center is really at the hub of a lot of things happening at the heart of our community," Wiener told the B.A.R.
"It makes a lot of sense for the center to step into this new, very visible role," added Wiener, who said the center was the only group the city approached.
In a separate interview, center Executive Director Rebecca Rolfe noted that the center is "deeply, deeply committed to community" and its leaders want to see Pink Saturday be "a strong community event."
Pink Saturday's future was thrown into doubt in February when the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence decided to end their oversight of the street party, which they had managed for nearly two decades, due to escalating violence at the event. A sister and his husband were attacked last year, while Stephen Powell, 19, died after being shot toward the end of the party in 2010.
Despite the Sisters' decision, city leaders were determined to see that the party continued in order to deal with the tens of thousands of people expected to stream into the Castro on the eve of the city's Pride parade and celebration Sunday, June 28.
Not only does the annual Dyke March, held early in the evening of Pink Saturday, lead up to 10,000 people into the Castro, but the Pride-sponsored celebration that day in the Civic Center also wraps up around 5 p.m. and many of the attendees then head for the city's gayborhood.
City officials are also bracing for a larger-than-normal turnout for Pride weekend this year due to the U.S. Supreme Court expected to rule sometime in June on whether to legalize same-sex marriage nationwide. When the court issued two favorable marriage equality rulings ahead of the 2013 Pride weekend, San Francisco saw a flood of people show up to celebrate the decisions.
The LGBT center will work closely with San Francisco elected officials and the police on planning for this year's event. The center has agreed to end the party earlier than in past years, likely at 8 p.m. as city officials have called for, as a way to mitigate the unruly behavior that tends to occur later at night.
But it does not intend to follow another suggestion that music and entertainment be axed this year. Rather, center officials are looking at having more entertainment options, as well as increased food offerings, as a way to instill a celebratory mood in the crowd.
"I think one of the goals is to really build on the Sisters' legacy and continue to make this more of an event about community and a celebration about the LGBT community and culture. More entertainment and activities will be a part of that," said Rolfe. "We are looking at how to engage other nonprofit organizations and community members to help with that. Certainly, there might be speeches. Our goal will be to expand the opportunities and options for the people participating."
City Hall has agreed to foot the bill for the outdoor gathering, but it remains unclear how much this year's event will cost. The 2014 Pink Saturday party cost the Sisters $80,000, though Rolfe said the center expects this year's celebration will cost more to produce.
Not only is the center paying for professional management, something the Sisters long resisted doing, it also is planning for increased security in order to maintain a peaceful atmosphere.
Also unknown at this time is if the party will officially be called Pink Saturday. The Sisters control the name and have yet to grant its use by the center.
"We have not yet talked to the Sisters about keeping the name," said Rolfe. "I think we would love to if they were willing. People see it as Pink Saturday."