Castro Street Fair Celebrates its 40th Anniversary Sunday

The 40th annual Castro Street Fair is slated to jump off this Sunday, Oct 6th from 11AM-6PM and, if all goes according to this years organizers plans, it's sure to be one for the history books.

The Castro Street Fair is the brainchild of the late Harvey Milk --Castro businessman, activist and the country's first openly Gay politician elected to office-- who was subsequently murdered in 1978 by fellow Supervisor Dan White along with then Mayor George Moscone.

Harvey taking his turn at the dunking booth at the first Castro St. Fair. Photo: Daniel Nicholetta
Harvey taking his turn in the dunking booth at the first Castro St. Fair. Photo: Daniel Nicoletta

Harvey dreamt up the Fair in 1974 as an event that would unite old neighborhood citizens with the new LGBT arrivals that were flooding the quiet and sleepy streets of the Castro, Eureka Valley, and Twin Peaks neighborhoods during the burgeoning Queer revolution of the early 1970's.

The first fair in 1974 had a whopping turn out of 5000 people --a huge number in those days-- and was a simple affair of carnival type booths, local merchants selling their wares, and neighbors strolling about on a sunny Sunday afternoon cruising, laughing, and letting off steam. Everyone pitched in to make it a success. Harvey, as the unofficial Mayor of Castro Street, volunteered to be the target at the dunking booth.

The Fair, like everything in San Francisco, has evolved. Money collected at the gate goes to a variety of non-profits whose operating budgets are enhanced by the Fair's donations. Upwards of 100,000 people visit the fair and its hundreds of booths dedicated to crafts, art, non-profit, political organizations and unique one of a kind wares. There are endless international food stands and trucks to sample as well as multiple levels of entertainment. The Main Stage has always been an eclectic hot bed of ground breaking sounds from 70's & 80's Disco icon Sylvester, 90's Pop/Rock wunderkids, 4 Non-Blondes, and the timeless darling of Broadway, Ms. Justin Viviane Bond, have all graced the stage.

Peaches at a recent photo shoot for Magia FM
Peaches at a recent photo shoot for Magia FM

2013 organizers are looking to carry on the Fair's reputation for surprises, innovation, and forward thinking in entertainment. This year they've lined up a 'Legends' stage where some of the City's most ground-breaking DJs --Page Hodel, Blackstone, Stefanie Phillips, and others-- will take turns spinning tunes plus current Castro faves like Juanita MORE will be whipping the kids into a frenzy over in the Castro Alley.

George Ridgely, the Fair's chief architect, has also mounted an entertainment coup by procuring international Electroclash star, Peaches, to strut her stuff on the main stage at 4PM. Peaches gained worldwide notoriety when her hit, 'Fuck the Pain Away' from her 2nd album, 'Teaches of Peaches', which blew up in 2000. Since then she's toured alongside such notables as SF fave film director, John Waters, UK Alt-Rock group Elastica, and has been a source of inspiration for performers like M.I.A. She's won several GLAAD music awards and her music has been featured in nearly fifty movie and television shows.

One of Dan Nicoletta's most infamous prints of Hoti & Harmodius, Castro St. Fair. 1975
One of Dan Nicoletta's most infamous photos of Hoti & Harmodius at the Castro St. Fair. 1975

This is just a small sample of what you can expect to see at two stages, two alley dance party areas and at Barnaby's World of Wonder --the Castro Street Fairs version of carnival games, side show wonders and art installations that takes up most of 18th Street between Noe and Sanchez.

Here's a link to the Castro St. Fair full schedule and we'll see you out there!

SIDE NOTE: Oct. 6th is also the 24th anniversary of the Castro Street Police Sweep and Riot. We posted about this pivotal moment in SF Queer and AIDS activism history last year with a re-print of a report from 1989 that first appeared in the magazine, Out Week, by GLBT History Museum curator Gerard Koskovich. You can re-read the post here.

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