The future of San Francisco’s largest nighttime street festival is now on hold.
Last Friday, the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, organizers of Pink Saturday, announced that the all-volunteer group had voted to suspend production of the event. For the past 20 years, the “leading edge Order of Queer Nuns” has coordinated the event, which drew thousands of party-goers to the Castro on the eve of the Gay Pride Sunday.
‘We are very disappointed” to withdraw from sponsorship, said Sister Selma Soul in an interview with Hoodline. Following violent attacks on attendees in the past two years, the Sisters “were not willing to jeopardize the safety” of their members.
In 2012, there was a violent beating of a woman near the Pink Saturday celebration and last year, one of the Sisters and his husband were attacked at 18th and Castro during the party.
After last year’s attack, the Sisters announced that if they were to continue sponsoring the event—which raised tens of thousands of dollars annually—they would have to come up with a “new vision” for the event. “Unfortunately,” Soul said, “we did not.”
The future of the popular street party drew a large and vocal crowd at a community meeting last fall.
But Supervisor Scott Wiener, whose District 8 includes the Castro, “very much hopes” the event will continue. In a prepared statement, Wiener said that he is in talks with the Mayor’s office, the police, transportation officials and others to see if alternate sponsors might come forward. “I’m optimistic that we will have a path forward,” he said.
Such a plan, Wiener said, would probably mean that the event would end earlier in the evening to cut down on rowdier crowds, which tend to show up toward the end of the party. The Sisters agree an earlier party would be an essential change, said Sister Soul, but added that shortages within the police department are an additional problem that must be addressed.
Sister Soul, who has volunteered at the event for the past 18 years, pointed out that the Sisters have “greatly appreciated” the generous support of the police. But, he pointed out, the department is stretched thin on the evening of the event, and it would be a challenge to find the resources to adequately staff the Castro.
The Sisters began managing the event in 1995, taking over from the Merchants of Upper Market (MUMC). In recent years, it has distributed approximately $20,000 a year to non-profit organizations who provided volunteers to staff the event. The organizations were largely LGBT groups but also included the Breast Cancer Emergency Fund, said Soul.
If Pink Saturday does not continue, Sister Soul said the greatest loss will probably be felt by young people who could “celebrate their community” at an all-ages event where entrance fees were optional donations.
“Young people have a tough time making it in San Francisco,” Sister Soul said. “Pink Saturday was a chance to enjoy a night out that they could afford.”