For Easter, Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence mark 45 years

  • by John Ferrannini, Assistant Editor
  • Wednesday March 27, 2024
Share this Post:
Sisters apply some touch-ups to their colleague during last year's Easter celebration at Mission Dolores Park. Photo: Gooch
Sisters apply some touch-ups to their colleague during last year's Easter celebration at Mission Dolores Park. Photo: Gooch

There'll be multiple opportunities for contests and pictures with the Easter bunny this weekend in San Francisco's Castro LGBTQ neighborhood.

Chief among those is the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence's 45th anniversary Easter celebration in Mission Dolores Park Sunday, March 31. The charitable drag nun organization got its start parading through San Francisco decades ago.

Brother Sinthetic Soul, the chair nun of the event, told the Bay Area Reporter that it will begin at 10:30 a.m. in the flat area of the park's north field with an Easter egg hunt and story time for the kids.

"There's some bunny hop races; there's photos with an Easter bunny and those kinds of things. Cheer SF is performing — they're doing a little show for the kids," Soul said, referring to the pep squad made up of LGBTQ and allied members.

After the children's program, the main stage starts at noon.

"We are canonizing a couple people," Soul said (though who specifically is being kept a secret). "There will be progressively more adult entertainment starting at noon until 4 p.m. The hunky Jesus and foxy Mary contests start at approximately 3 p.m. There's also an Easter bonnet competition."

The celebration first started Easter Sunday 1979. As the B.A.R. reported, the beginning of the Sisters can be traced to Ken Bunch (Sister Vicious PHB), Fred Brungard (Sister Missionary Position), and Baruch Golden. They went in full, traditional habits through the streets of San Francisco and down to the nude beach, according to the Sisters' website. They were met with shock and amazement, but captured the public's interest.

The founders came up with the name Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence and the group's mission: to promulgate universal joy and expiate stigmatic guilt. In 2022, Bunch was honored with a portion of Alert Alley near Dolores Park ceremonially renamed Sister Vish-Knew Way, as the B.A.R. noted at the time.

The crowd at Mission Dolores Park appreciated performances during the 2023 Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence's annual Easter party. Photo: Gooch  

'Walk a mile ...'
For its first two decades, the Sisters held Easter in the Park at Collingwood Park, a small Castro neighborhood park in Eureka Valley. In 1999, on its 20th anniversary, the Sisters went big and closed down Castro Street for a block party that was met with strong resistance from the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of San Francisco, which fought to have the street closure denied. (That led to gay then-Board of Supervisors president Tom Ammiano's famous "walk a mile in my pumps" comment to then-fellow supervisor Alicia Becerril during a heated board meeting held in the South of Market neighborhood where the street closure was approved on a vote of 9-2.)

The Sisters party that year garnered international media attention and CNN aired footage from the event. After that, it was held at Dolores Park until 2014, when the park underwent renovations and the event moved to Golden Gate Park; it returned to Dolores Park in 2019.

Soul has been involved with the group since 2020, "when we had to make the call to cancel because of COVID."

"That was a very difficult decision, but it seemed the right thing to do at the time, and that turned out to be the case — we're excited to be back in Dolores Park," Soul said.

The main stage this year will be hosted by the Sisters' own Sister Roma and Honey Mahogany, a trans person who is the outgoing chair of the San Francisco Democratic Party.

"There's nothing more San Francisco than Easter in the Park with the Sisters," Roma stated. "I'm so excited to return as co-host with Honey Mahogany as we celebrate 45 years of community service, fundraising, and perpetual indulgence. I can't wait to share the joy of the day with our community. It's going to be magical."

Mahogany did not return a request for comment.

The National Weather Service says there is a chance of rain for Easter Sunday as of press time. Soul said, "There is no humanly possible way to have contingencies for an event like this."

"It's rain or shine unless it rains so hard we can't have people in the park — if that should happen, we will look to having the contests at a host bar on a future weekend," Soul added.

The event is free and open to the public.

The prior day, Saturday, March 30, there will be a Castro Merchants Association-sponsored event from noon to 6 p.m. on Noe Street next to the Lookout (at 16th Street).

Lauro Gonzalez, a gay man who is the CEO and founder of ArtyhoodSF, told the B.A.R. that "what Artyhood has been doing is not only creating these events, but engaging with all the small businesses and encouraging them to participate in this program we created, like a passport experience or a scavenger hunt kind of thing where all the people who come to our events can visit these businesses and get a stamp and they can go back to the event and redeem it, so it's a way for people to see what the businesses in the Castro are about."

Similar events are held on Pink Saturday in June and around Halloween and Christmas. The Easter EggStravaganza will feature a bunny hop and an Easter passport that attendees can take around to participating businesses.

"They'll ask them for a stamp and they'll have special treats for them and after they collect a certain number of stamps they'll come back to the event and redeem it for a shirt, a drink ticket, or some other swag we're planning to have," Gonzalez said.

On Noe Street there will be drag performances, DJs, a petting zoo and the "premiere of the Castro Drag Performer of the Year Contest," which will take place in two parts, with the second part on June 29 — Pink Saturday, Gonzalez said. People interested in participating in the contest can email [email protected]

"We're gonna have arts and crafts for the kids — over 20 artists' booths — our Castro Easter bunny photo opportunity: there's gonna be an Easter bunny there to take pics through the whole day — lots of arts and crafts for the people, and a lot of fun overall for families and the community."

From noon to 1 p.m. there'll be a drag story hour hosted by Per Sia.

"I'm so excited," Per Sia told the B.A.R. "I am part of Drag Story Hour, the organization. I was the first performer to do it back in 2015 in the Castro — the Eureka Valley Branch [S.F. library] so I've been doing it ever since then. I'm extremely excited to be returning back to the Castro to read drag story hour. I have so many books I'm going to read before I get there, because I have the audience choose the book for me and read whatever they want me to read."

Per Sia said hopefully people can "enjoy the festivities with their families." (Per Sia has not stopped leading drag story times even after the event she participated in at the San Lorenzo public library was hijacked by members of the Proud Boys in 2022, as the B.A.R. previously reported.

Other events
The San Francisco Recreation and Park Department is presenting a Spring Fling at the Crocker Amazon Playground from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, March 30.

The event will be "featuring carnival rides and games, egg hunts, a climbing wall, arts and crafts, live entertainment, and food for sale! Community partners, including the San Francisco Public Library and its Bookmobile, will also be on hand," Rec and Park states on its website.

The Springline community will be hosting its own Easter Eggstravaganza from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, March 30, at the Plaza at Springline at 1302 El Camino Real in Menlo Park.

"Join us for a fun-filled day of egg hunting, face painting, live music, bunny petting zoo, and delicious food! Kids under the age of 12 can participate in the Easter egg hunt and look for hidden eggs throughout the park. If you would like to participate in the egg hunt, please bring your own basket," a news release states.

Never miss a story! Keep up to date on the latest news, arts, politics, entertainment, and nightlife. Sign up for the Bay Area Reporter's free weekday email newsletter. You'll receive our newsletters and special offers from our community partners.

Support California's largest LGBTQ newsroom. Your one-time, monthly, or annual contribution advocates for LGBTQ communities. Amplify a trusted voice providing news, information, and cultural coverage to all members of our community, regardless of their ability to pay -- Donate today!