SF's Excelsior to hold first official Pride party

  • by Adam Echelman
  • Wednesday June 1, 2022
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SF's Excelsior to hold first official Pride party

San Francisco's Excelsior district is one of the more conservative areas of the city — not always welcoming to LGBTQ residents But that is starting to change. This Saturday, the neighborhood will hold its inaugural PridExcelsior party to kick off Pride Month.

It was the neighborhood of Dan White, who served on the Board of Supervisors at the time and represented the district until his resignation. It was after he sought his job back that November and was rebuffed by mayor George Moscone that White assassinated both the mayor and San Francisco supervisor Harvey Milk, the first gay man elected to office in California. (White died by suicide in 1985.)

Today, the Excelsior district boasts some of the city's most diverse demographics, a place where Filipino markets, a Chinese hospital, and a tortilla shop are just some of the many eclectic businesses that dot a 2.2-mile commercial district. While some Excelsior business owners are eager to support the LGBTQ community, there's a tacit understanding that the neighborhood's first-ever official Pride event is a big step, no matter how much the neighborhood has changed.

Andrea Ferrucci, left, and Sean Ingram own the Dark Horse Inn, a bar and restaurant that has served as a gathering place for the LGBTQ community in the Excelsior for over a decade. Photo by Adam Echelman  

"Everybody who tries to talk up this neighborhood talks about how we have such a diverse neighborhood," said Andrea Ferrucci, who identifies as queer. But, she pauses, "It stops short of including LGBTQ people." Together with her business and life partner, Sean Ingram, she runs the Dark Horse Inn, a no-frills saloon-style bar and restaurant. For years now, they have flown a Pride flag outside the bar, and unlike in the Castro, where a rainbow flag is almost a necessary business expense, that gesture means a lot to patrons in the Excelsior as well as Dark Horse employees, many of whom identify as LGBTQ themselves.

Ferrucci and Ingram have hosted their own small Pride events in the past at the Dark Horse Inn. Two years ago, Supervisor Ahsha Safaí hosted an informal outdoor gathering for Pride as well. But by every standard, this year's official event is a major upgrade.

The event will feature eight hours of events near the intersection of Mission Street and Geneva Avenue. From noon to 3 p.m., there will be a "Rollerskating Pop-Up Party" courtesy of the Church of 8 Wheels with free skate rentals for adults and children. The party then moves to 950 Geneva Avenue, a party supply store, where there will be a drag queen and drag king show from 5 to 7 p.m., and ending with an after-party by DJ Marilynn from 7 to 10. The Dark Horse Inn will serve food and beverages during the show and the after-party. Ferrucci has been coordinating with local artists who will set up pop-up tents as well.

"This event sends a strong message that the Excelsior community welcomes everyone," Safaí stated in an email to the B.A.R. His office provided thousands of dollars in grant funding to the Excelsior Action Group, a nonprofit organization, in order to make the party a reality. The total budget for the event is roughly $17,000.

For Safaí and for Maribel Ramirez, the executive director of EAG, the Pride party is also about bringing people back to the neighborhood's commercial district, which had a 17% commercial vacancy rate in EAG's most recent study. COVID relief benefits buoyed many of the local small businesses during the first two years of the pandemic. Now that those dollars are drying up, Ramirez is trying to get residents to return to the streets, including through what she calls "vibrancy projects." This year, for example, EAG has hosted block parties, an Easter egg hunt, and a movie night. On April 24, EAG ran a pasta party where Ramirez cooked pasta sauce and hundreds of residents showed up with boiled pasta. Local businesses like the gay-owned wine bar, The Check-In, partnered with EAG to offer drinks too. Safaí sees these events as a central piece in helping local businesses recover from the pandemic.

Organizers like Ramirez and the owners of the Dark Horse Inn are anxious that the neighborhood's reputation could damper turnout for the Pride party. Ramirez heard from merchants who seemed hesitant about the event, expressing their reservations in coded language, telling her the Excelsior is "more of a traditional neighborhood."

Ferrucci sees it too at the Dark Horse Inn. "There's just kind of an old-school mentality out here," she said. But like Ramirez, she's working hard to make sure that the event is not only a success this year but that it also creates a template for future years.

That success is not just measured in attendance numbers. "I want people from other neighborhoods to come out here and discover that this neighborhood exists and to discover that this neighborhood is diverse and inclusive," said Ferrucci, "and I want the people who live in this neighborhood to feel like they are part of the community."

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