Planning underway for 50th Castro Street Fair

  • by John Ferrannini, Assistant Editor
  • Friday May 3, 2024
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Onlookers watched as Alejandro Salvia twirled at last year's Castro Street Fair. Photo: Rick Gerharter
Onlookers watched as Alejandro Salvia twirled at last year's Castro Street Fair. Photo: Rick Gerharter

Get ready for something special this fall — the Castro Street Fair is turning 50. Members of the Castro Merchants Association heard from fair officials about plans for the milestone anniversary at their May 2 meeting.

The late Harvey Milk founded the fair in 1974, three years before he was elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. Milk, who took office in January 1978, was assassinated, along with then-mayor George Moscone, 11 months later by disgruntled ex-supervisor Dan White.

Over the years, the fair has grown, shrunk, and come back to life after the COVID pandemic. This year it will be held Sunday, October 6, from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. The suggested donation is $10 to $20, according to the fair's website.

Fred Lopez, a gay man who is the vice president of the fair's board of directors, told the merchants that "much of our footprint will remain similar to last year," which was back to the pre-COVID format, including 18th Street from Diamond to Noe streets and Castro Street between 18th and 19th streets. In 2022, the second year it returned in person after the pandemic, the fair began at Market and Castro streets but ended at the intersection of Castro and 18th Street. In 2020, the fair was sidelined, and it came back in 2021 with a much smaller footprint, as the Bay Area Reporter noted at the time.

"We got really good feedback on our footprint last year," Lopez said. "We are continuing to partner with community organizations and raise funds for them and are finding new ways to support local nonprofits, and are obviously looking for sponsorships."

Lopez said plans are in the works to make the fair's golden anniversary a special one.

"It will be highlighted because it's a special year," he said, adding that exhibitor applications open Friday, May 3. "So if you would like a 10x10, 10x20, 10x50 [exhibitor space] presence at the fair, you just sign on up. See you there. Congratulations, Castro."

Lopez said people interested in setting up a booth — or donating — can find information at

The fair falls one week after the September 29 Folsom Street Fair and just before San Francisco Fleet Week, October 7-15, featuring the popular Blue Angels air show October 12-13. The Italian Heritage Parade is also that weekend, on Sunday, October 13.

Terry Asten Bennett, a straight ally who's president of the merchants group and co-owner of Cliff's Variety at 479 Castro Street, has long attended the Castro Street Fair. She shared her memories of the inaugural event.

"I was actually at the first Castro Street Fair," she said. "I was 4 and a half months old."

Updated, 5/8/24: A correction has been made to the end of this story; Terry Asten Bennett was 4 and a half months old.

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