The Folsom Street Fair will scoot one block to the west to accommodate residents and businesses in the neighborhood, producers of the annual leather and fetish street festival announced Thursday (June 5). The move, in which Eighth Street will be opened up, marks the first change to the fair’s footprint in almost 20 years.
As producers had previously announced, the fair, set for September 21, will also be held a week earlier this year in order to make way for the Oracle Open World tech conference, which starts the last weekend of September and will draw thousands of visitors to the city and clog up hotel rooms.
Organizers noted in a news release that the neighborhood, home to a dwindling number of gay bars, has changed “drastically” since 1995, when the event’s footprint expanded to include Folsom Street between Eleventh and Twelfth streets.
Demetri Moshoyannis, executive director of Folsom Street Events, said in the announcement that the board agreed to the move in order to meet three objectives. Those include “improving street traffic around the fair,” “minimizing impact on residential side streets,” and “engaging new community businesses.”
Eighth Street will open up to traffic and producers will be able to “engage fewer residential side streets,” while allowing businesses like The SF Eagle, Sports Authority, and CatHead’s BBQ, which are near the fair’s western end to “participate more actively.” The western boundary of the fair will be at Thirteenth Street, rather than Twelfth Street.
“Getting the Eagle onto the fairgrounds feels especially relevant for many of us in the leather community!” said Moshoyannis.
Board President Phillip Babcock stated, “We don’t want to keep producing the same fair year after year. … We’re excited to try something a little different.”
In an interview, Moshoyannis said organizers hadn’t had any complaints about the fair from residents around Eighth Street, but they wanted to be proactive.
“We’re just always trying to make the fair better and easier, so in looking at the map we supposed that this would be a better solution in terms of trying to minimize residential impact. … We thought things could be even better moving it west one block.”
Richard Park, who owns CatHead’s BBQ, 1665 Folsom Street, with his wife, said, “We’ve always wanted to be part of” the fair, “ever since we started here two and a half years ago. We’ve always been on the outskirts of it and felt a little left out.”
Park said business is already “pretty good” that day. For the restaurant, it’s more about “being part of the community.”
On the other side of the festival, Moshoyannis said, “We’ve gotten some business owners on the side of the fair between Seventh and Eighth that are disappointed the fair is not going to be there anymore. They want the fair to try to come back next year.”
Some businesses may want to be closer to the fair, but Brian Murdy, marketing director for Mr. S Leather, at 385 Eighth Street, said he doesn’t think the move will impact business the day of the fair.
“I think everyone will still make it down to the store,” said Murdy. “We’re still close enough. … I think there’s still a lot of excitement overall, and people want to get off the fairgrounds, too, to kind of get away. That’s what the store actually is, a place for people to get away” and take a break from the event.
For more information about the fair, go to www.folsomstreetfair.org