10 Tips for Folsom newbies - Navigating the sexy street fair for optimum fun

  • by Race Bannon
  • Wednesday September 25, 2019
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Dancer Paul William welcomes fans to a recent Folsom Street Fair. photo: BARtab
Dancer Paul William welcomes fans to a recent Folsom Street Fair. photo: BARtab

Folsom Street Fair is just days away. Among the crowd will be throngs of people who have traversed past Fairs multiple times. For them, it's an annual gathering for which they already know the ins and outs.

For others, if this is their first Fair, they might have some trepidations and concerns.

If you're a newcomer to the Fair, here are a few tips that might help make your first time better. While these tips are specific to the Fair, most of them apply to attending any big leather or kink event.

1. Be polite. I could have labeled this 'respect consent' but I feel consent is ultimately a subset of being polite. If you don't know someone and how they will react, don't reach out and touch them. If some erotic activity is going on, don't assume you can step in and join. Be a polite person and ask permission or wait for a clear cue that you are invited.

A new 25x15 Leader Pride Flag now flies prominently on the new Eagle Plaza currently under construction. photo: Rich Stadmiller  

2. Realize photos and video will be taken. There have been attempts at events to manage the desires of those who do and don't want photos or videos taken. Such efforts are not 100% effective, at least not at big, public events like this one. Some people will ask you if they can take your photo. Most will not and there's no way to filter who takes photos or video of larger groups.

3. Wear sunscreen. Every year you see hundreds of people walking around late on Fair day with severely sunburned bodies, often with the pattern of a harness or whatever they were wearing burned on them like a painful temporary tattoo. Don't be one of them. If necessary, the Fair has a sunscreen station on the fairgrounds. For the truly fair-skinned, huddle under whatever shade you can find and watch the parade of fetishes and kinks walk by, which is much of the fun anyway.

4. Hydrate. Even if you are not drinking or otherwise indulging in something altering, the hot sun and excitement of the day can take its toll. Drink plenty of water. Try not to overheat. If you are hanging out with a friend, encourage them to do the same. Wearing less rather than more can alleviate overheating. There is a clothes check on the fairgrounds.

5. It's not a contest. Whether a newcomer or a seasoned kinkster, being around so much fetish attire or exotic kink practices can elicit a sense of competition. Damaging thoughts can creep in. Am I kinky enough? Am I wearing enough gear? Should I be able to take what that guy tied up can take?

Hundreds of people walked Sunday in the first Leather Pride Parade that culminated at the SF Eagle for the raising of the new Eagle Plaza Leather Pride Flag. photo: Rich Stadmiller  

There are so many people here with amazing bodies and I'm just average so maybe I don't belong. The competitive mental chatter can ramble through our brains and squelch the fun right out of it. None of this is a contest. Chill out and just be yourself.

6. Don't try to attend every event. The number of events that have sprung up around the Fair has skyrocketed in recent years. Dozens of events compete for your attention and dollars. Realize you can't do it all. Trying to do so is a mistake.

Leave gaps in your schedule to embrace spontaneity. Over-scheduling is a mistake. Plus, there's that thing called sleep you will need if you are to truly enjoy yourself. Naps are good. Like most things in life, pacing is everything.

7. If you're a shopper, get to the Fair early. The Fair offers an amazing kink shopping experience. Retailers from around the world set up shop and offer an assortment of garb and gear to take your fetish and play to new levels.

Members of the local leather communities held the new Eagle Plaza Leather Pride Flag prior to its raising as part of a flag raising ceremony. photo: Rich Stadmiller  

The Fair gets extremely crowded late in the day, making shopping more difficult. Getting there early allows you to browse unimpeded, and the booths will still be fully stocked. Going early also allows you to experience a wide-open street before the pressed flesh of the packed crowds.

8. Suspend judgment and release expectations. Especially if you're a newcomer, try to have few expectations and leave any judgmentalism home. It has no place at the Fair. Remember what the late, great Frank Zappa said. "The mind is like a parachute. It doesn't work if it is not open."

9. Donate at the gate. Remember, the Fair is a fundraiser. Much of the money you donate at the gate ends up in the coffers of worthwhile nonprofits that help lots of people. Even if you do not have a lot of extra money right now, try to donate something. If you are currently flush with cash, consider donating more than the suggested contribution.

10. Attend with a smaller group. It might seem like fun to walk around with 10 of your best friends, but it's extremely difficult to keep track of everyone. Consider going with just one or two people so you can easily hang together and not constantly stop and start to wrangle your posse.

After the Leather Pride Parade and Eagle Plaza flag raising ceremony, people like these sexy hunks gathered at the SF Eagle for a big beer bust block party to celebrate. photo: Rich Stadmiller  

Be aware that cell reception in large crowds often grinds to a halt. You might not be able to text or call. Have a meeting place set up in advance in case you lose track of each other.

Enjoy the Fair. It's one of the most amazing gatherings of kinksters in the world. We are lucky to have it right here in San Francisco.

Kicking Off Leather Week
This year the busy Leather Week kicked off with a new event, the Leather Pride Parade that offered an alternative to the LeatherWalk that has taken place in past years. To preserve and honor the longstanding tradition of leather and kink organizations and individuals gathering the Sunday before the start of Leather Week, Alejandro Montiel (aka Lex Montiel), owner of the San Francisco Eagle bar, created the Parade.

The parade gathered at the Folsom Street Foundry then walked a route that stopped along the way at the Powerhouse, Mr. S Leather, The Stud, Lone Star Saloon, finally arriving at the SF Eagle for an extended block party beer bust and a celebration of the raising of a new 25'x15' leather pride flag on the 80' flag pole that will serve as a highly visible marker for the new Eagle Plaza now under construction.

Race Bannon is a local author, blogger and activist. www.bannon.com

For leather events, go to https://www.ebar.com/bartab/leather-kink