Castro Street Fair
Intersection of Castro and Market Streets
San Francisco, CA 94114
Price: Free admission but donations strongly encouraged
Date: Sunday, October 7th from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Founded in 1974 by Harvey Milk, California’s first openly gay politician elected to public office, the Castro Street Fair is San Francisco’s most popular LGBT festival. The fair is always the first Sunday in October and is held in the Castro District of San Francisco, centered around the intersection of Market and Castro Streets. The first fair attracted 5,000 visitors and last year’s garnered over 50,000 attendees and raised $85,000 for local non-profits.
The annual Castro Street Fair encompasses the standard street-fair fare of live music, street food and art booths, but does so with a special kind of kinky San Franciscan flair. While remaining a bit tamer than other more risqué San Francisco LGBT street fairs like the Folsom Street or Dore Alley Fairs, the vibe at Castro is somewhat more family-friendly. However, discretion is still advised.
The main attractions at this flamboyant fun fest always include live music and performances. Check out the Main Stage located on Market Street to see performers such as the Mighty Slim Pickens. Also of note are the drag performances on the Red Rock Stage. This year, make sure not to miss stage host Cookie Dough as well as Drew Droege as Chloe Sevigny strutting his stuff. Also of note are the Country and Western Pavilion where one can either watch or join in line dancing with cowboys and cowgirls. If country’s not your thing, check out the DJ Stage which always promises an energetic crowd of dancers getting down to some great house music or the Dance Stage where last year’s showcase performer was Chelsea Starr.
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Crowds flock to the high-quality arts and crafts booths that feature works from artists throughout northern California. Also, unique works not found at area art and wine festivals can be discovered here. If you’re looking to refuel after all the dancing and shopping, make sure to check out some of the varied street-food options available at the fair. Options range from teriyaki chicken-on-a-stick to Vietnamese garlic noodles. Also not to be missed are scattered carnival acts and Barnaby’s World Of Wonderment, complete with a heavy petting zoo and a burlesque show.
While the Castro Street Fair is technically free, most fair attendees make a donation at the gates. With a donation comes a sticker to get $1 off beers inside the fair and all proceeds go to local Castro Street Fair beneficiaries and non-profits. Once inside, make sure to visit and speak with folks at the numerous community organization booths to find out more about what your donation supports.
Crowds at the Castro Street Fair are generally manageable and not too dense, but with various street closures, taking public transportation is recommended. Muni lines K, L, M and T all stop at the Castro station which is located inside the fair. If you do choose to drive, free parking is available at the nearby Everett Middle School Parking lot located on 17th Street between Sanchez and Church.
Joanna Metheny is a freelance writer covering all things South Bay. Her work can be found on Examiner.com.