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Castro fair footprint shrinks

by Seth Hemmelgarn

Sunbathers watched the scene at Dance Alley during last<br>year's Castro Street Fair. Photo: Rick Gerharter
Sunbathers watched the scene at Dance Alley during last
year's Castro Street Fair. Photo: Rick Gerharter  

Organizers of the 44th annual Castro Street Fair have announced that Market Street will not be included in this year's festival footprint and instead will remain open to traffic.

The fair, which is set for 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday, October 1, "has seen a slight decline in exhibitor sales in the last five years, and the board decided to condense the fairgrounds to improve the experiences of exhibitors and fairgoers alike," Fred Lopez, the fair's executive director, said this week in response to emailed questions. Lopez added that the board also decided "that the savings in infrastructural costs by not closing Market Street were worthy of consideration." 

Previously, Market between Diamond and Noe streets has been blocked off for the fair, which raises money for community nonprofits and draws about 50,000 people a year.

The rest of the footprint won't be changed, with streets closed on Castro from Market to 19th Street and on 18th Street from Noe to Diamond. This year, the food booths will be on 18th between Collingwood and Diamond. As usual, the fair will also include entertainment stages, arts and crafts, and community group exhibitors. Lopez said the entertainment lineup hasn't been set yet.

The budget for this year's fair is about $185,000. Organizers are hoping to raise more than $22,000 from sponsorships, which is about what they generated in 2016.

A donation of $5-$10 is suggested at the gate. Last year, more than $38,000 from the fair went to community groups.

Slain gay supervisor Harvey Milk, who owned a camera shop in the neighborhood, started the fair in 1974, four years before his assassination.

Gay District 8 Supervisor Jeff Sheehy, who currently represents the Castro and other neighborhoods, stated that he's "looking forward" to the fair, "where neighbors and families can celebrate our diverse community. The fair not only brings the neighborhood together, but is a tremendous charitable benefactor of the Castro community."

Through the budget process, Sheehy's office is providing $30,000 for this year's fair.

In January, SF Weekly reported that the fair may not even happen this year and, according to Sheehy's office, fair organizers said several months ago they were on the verge of calling it off. Lopez didn't directly respond to questions about potentially canceling this year's fair.

The Bears of San Francisco is one of the groups that's regularly had volunteers at the fair in exchange for sharing in the proceeds.

Jack Sugrue, the Bears president, said the fair is "one of our key fundraising platforms of the year," and his group anticipates being part of the fair again in October. The Bears are this year working to raise funds for the San Francisco nonprofits Alliance Health Project and Project Open Hand, which both provide support to people who are living with HIV/AIDS and other medical conditions.

Fundraising-wise, last year "was not a great year for the Castro Street Fair," said Sugrue. "The weather was not very cooperative, and they were also running up against the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival," which takes place each year in Golden Gate Park. This year's festival is set for October 6-8, the weekend after the Castro fair.

"We anticipate more people and more business at the beverage booths" this fall, said Sugrue, who added the event's "always my favorite street fair of the year. The people are happy. The crowds are patient. It's awesome."

The fair could still use some help to cover its bills from last year, according to a lawsuit filed by Jonathan Neil & Associates, a collections agency working on behalf of National Construction Rentals.

According to the complaint filed June 26 in San Francisco Superior Court, the fair owes the rental company approximately $6,100.

Asked about the lawsuit, Lopez said, "We contracted with National in 2016 for portable toilets as well as fencing." He said he couldn't comment further.

The rental company didn't respond to an interview request.

For more information about the fair, go to


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