SF 'optimistic' for modified, in-person Folsom Street Fair, ED says

  • by John Ferrannini, Assistant Editor
  • Tuesday February 16, 2021
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Esteban DeLeon wowed the crowd with his dancing at the 2018 Folsom Street Fair. Photo: Rick Gerharter
Esteban DeLeon wowed the crowd with his dancing at the 2018 Folsom Street Fair. Photo: Rick Gerharter

The Folsom Street Fair may proceed in 2021 in San Francisco as a "modified" in-person event — depending upon public health concerns and COVID-19 vaccination levels — according to the nonprofit's executive director in an interview with the Bay Area Reporter February 16.

"The current word from the city is we will be able to have some sort of modified event," Angel Adeyoha, the queer and nonbinary executive director of Folsom Street Events, said. "They were pretty clear — unless something changes drastically — we can have an outdoor event on Folsom Sunday and we are on the calendar for that. They're optimistic."

The popular leather and kink event takes place September 26.

Adeyoha made these remarks while touting the nonprofits newest endeavor — a sex-positive community center slated to open in the South of Market neighborhood later this year. Adeyoha had told the B.A.R. last month that a decision on whether the two annual South of Market leather-themed street fairs (the other is Up Your Alley, which takes place in July) would be announced soon.

"It is dependent on public health and whether we have reached a critical mass of vaccinations," Adeyoha said.

A final decision on the Up Your Alley fair (sometimes referred to as Dore Alley, where some of it takes place) is expected "by the end of March" because any in-person event will have to look different than normal. Adeyoha floated perhaps having Dore Alley look like streets that have been closed for restaurant and bar business during the pandemic, such as two blocks of 18th Street in the Castro neighborhood currently on weekends.

"We may end up doing the Sunday Streets kind of thing, with everything more spaced out, masked and distanced with artists," Adeyoha said. "Nothing like what it is usually known for. So we're not ruling July out."

San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency spokeswoman Erica Kato stated February 16 that she "won't be able to confirm [the reservation] this week" because the special events manager "is out."

The front desk of the planned sex-positive community center at 145 Ninth Street. Photo: Courtesy SVN QAV and Associates  

Sex-positive space opens soon
Either way, Folsom Street Events is planning a more permanent, public presence in SOMA through the Community Center for Alternative Sexualities, which will be housed adjacent to its office at 145 Ninth Street.

Adeyoha said that a soft opening is planned for next month, with a more permanent opening in July.

"Folsom Street has signed a lease, and begun work on launching our new community center in SOMA! We are pivoting from our legacy of fundraising, community education and arts programming annually through our events, to a year round resource for many small organizations, groups and clubs who are struggling to stay in SOMA or who have been pushed out," a Folsom Street Events news release states.

"We will also make space for organizations that want to expand their services into SOMA, like the Castro Country Club, to host recovery meetings that are targeted toward our stakeholder communities," the release states.

The community center will "allow us to continue to be innovative in how we bring the community together throughout the year during the pandemic," the release states.

It will showcase a library and archive; art shows; film screenings; media production; meetings, classes, and workshops; game, craft and social nights; drag and performance workshops; fundraising events; comprehensive, shame-free, kink-friendly sex education; and volunteer trainings.

The lease for the ADA accessible space, a square-footage of 2,482 feet, was signed for five years, Adeyoha said, from a co-op that includes Frameline, the San Francisco International LGBTQ+ Film Festival. Folsom Street Events hopes to buy into the co-op "to have a more permanent space for us." (The co-op owns the building where the center is located.)

Frameline did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The lease amount is $7,760.72 monthly, Adeyoha stated.

Adeyoha leads a tour of the space in a Tik Tok video posted to the Folsom Street Events' account. Expect more updates on social media in the future "as we put in shelves and other things," Adeyoha said.

"We've been talking about having a year-round space as a board for six years," Adeyoha added. "We moved [the Folsom Street Events office] into the building in July 2020, and the space next door became available unexpectedly. It became available, I believe, in December, around the time we were looking into grants for potential spaces. Very fortuitous for us. The other people in the building are very nice."

The Community Center for Alternative Sexualities may be incorporated into the street fairs, Adeyoha said, since it is "near the fairgrounds," though the current focus is on the year-round activities the center will provide community members.

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