Folsom Street Fair set to return

  • by Eric Burkett, Assistant Editor
  • Wednesday September 21, 2022
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Getting into the Folsom fair spirit, Lillian Bastet, foreground, takes part in a flogging demonstration September 10 in the Castro produced by Queer Arts Featured, which showcases new local queer artists every month in group shows centered around a theme. This month's theme was "Part the Curtain," a celebration and exploration of sex, kink, and intimacy through a queer lens. Photo: Sari Staver<br>
Getting into the Folsom fair spirit, Lillian Bastet, foreground, takes part in a flogging demonstration September 10 in the Castro produced by Queer Arts Featured, which showcases new local queer artists every month in group shows centered around a theme. This month's theme was "Part the Curtain," a celebration and exploration of sex, kink, and intimacy through a queer lens. Photo: Sari Staver

After two years of not-quite-the-real-thing Folsom Street fairs, the massive kink and leather-focused street party is back in San Francisco's South of Market neighborhood.

Folsom Street Fair, which before COVID could attract as many as 400,000 visitors, returns Sunday, September 25. For the past two years, the fair has either been presented in a virtual format, as it was in 2020, or in a much smaller format, as happened last year when it was presented as Megahood2021 (Megahood was the fair's original name back in 1984 when it was founded as a bulwark against gentrification in the South of Market neighborhood.)

While Folsom Street, the fair's parent organization, offers surprisingly little information about the event on its website — a departure from years past — there are plenty of things that visitors can expect to see, just as before. A request to Folsom Street for more information was not returned.

According to Folsom Street's website, "Our four community stages will be amazing, our exhibitors will be spicy, and we will all be together! Don't miss The Playground (on Ninth Street between Howard and Folsom), a space for women of every kind, and all trans and nonbinary folks. Follow us on social media to see who will be the stars on our stages!"

As of September 19, no performers had been listed. Admission to the fair is free but a $10-$20 donation at the gate will get you a fair sticker, and the proceeds are donated to various community organizations. As in previous years, the fair this year takes place on Folsom Street, stretching from Eighth to 15th streets.

As has been the case with many of this summer's events, this year's celebration will also bring opportunities to get caught up on your vaccinations.

MPX vaccines

With monkeypox still making the rounds — although in significantly lower numbers, as of late — the San Francisco Department of Public Health is expanding vaccine eligibility to non-city residents for the first time, as the Bay Area Reporter previously reported. Non-city residents who meet other eligibility requirements can get a vaccine now through October 2, according to a statement from SFDPH. The vaccines are part of 10,000 additional Jynneos vaccines from the federal government, just in time for the beginning of the fall street fair season and associated events.

Out-of-towners attending the event will be able to get vaccinated provided they meet the same criteria required of residents. They must fall within one of several categories: gay or bisexual men, or any man or trans person who has sex with men or trans people; sex workers of any sexual orientation or gender identity; people of any age or any gender who have had close contact within the past 14 days with someone with suspected or confirmed monkeypox; and people who have had close contact with others at a venue or event or within a social group in the past 14 days where a suspected or confirmed MPX case was identified.

This includes persons who received notice from a venue or event of a potential exposure within the past 14 days; laboratory workers who routinely perform MPX virus testing ; and clinicians who have had a high-risk occupational exposure (i.e., examined MPX lesions or collected monkeypox specimens without using recommended personal protective equipment), SFDPH stated. Both first and second vaccinations will be available.

Gay District 6 Supervisor Matt Dorsey, left, honored Alex "Lex" Montiel, a gay man who's the owner of the SF Eagle, during a Latinx History Month observation Sept. 20.  

Fair fun
Of course, the fair isn't all vaccinations. In addition to the usual display of leather-clad eye candy, there'll be plenty of opportunities for folks to replenish their toy collections, listen to live music, and cruise.

Bob Goldfarb, a gay man and executive director of the Leather & LGBTQ Cultural District, said they were excited that Leather Week "is upon us and we are able to meet in person again this year." Unfortunately, the district's LeatherWalk that was scheduled for September 18 to kick off Leather Week was rained out.

The leather district, which has been helping to coordinate MPX vaccination pop-ups, Goldfarb said, will have a presence at the fair this year with a booth offering information about its work, as well as the Bearrison Street Fair coming up October 15.

Like Goldfarb, others are looking forward to the opportunity to get together again. For some, this year is particularly meaningful after the fair's diminished presence the past two years.

"The members of The 15 Association have participated in every Folsom Street Fair since its inception," said Christopher Wood, a gay man and president of the men's fraternal group. "COVID may have interrupted our routine but it also gave many of us time to think about what we want. Leather is surging again, and this year's Folsom Street Fair is a sign of the resiliency of the leather community. For me and my brothers in The 15, the ability to once again gather with leather folks from around the world reminds us of who we are and that we are not alone."

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