The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence announced today (Friday, February 13) that they have voted to suspend production of Pink Saturday, the annual street party that occurs every year in San Francisco’s Castro district.
Concerns about safety have dogged the street festival, which draws thousands of people, for years, and in June 2014, one of the charitable drag nuns and his husband were attacked.
In an interview Friday, Sister Selma Soul said the Sisters voted “overwhelmingly” this past Tuesday, February 10 at their general membership meeting against doing the event this year. She didn’t know what the final tally was. This year’s event would have been June 27.
“We all feel awful about it, but the reality is, at this state, with no clear vision for the event,” the Sisters didn’t want to be involved, said Soul, whose legal name is James Bazydola.
“We said last year we would not continue it unless we could change it significantly,” said Soul. There had been “a lot of great ideas, but there was no clear leader and no clear vision coming together, and at this late date, we don’t feel the [Sisters’] order should continue with it without that vision.”
Soul, who coordinated the event from 2012 through 2014, said, “We’ll support anyone who wants to do street closure,” but they would “possibly” oppose another group using the name “Pink Saturday.” She said it would depend on “our confidence” in whether others could make the event “safe and successful for the community.”
In a news release, the Sisters – an all-volunteer group – said they “may explore new manifestations of ‘Pink Saturday'” in the future.
The party has helped raise thousands of dollars for charities, but Soul said her group has “diversified our funding a lot,” so it’s not as dependent on the annual pre-LGBT Pride event.
With rising costs over the years, “as a fundraiser, it’s really not very effective anymore,” she said.
Gay Supervisor Scott Wiener, whose District 8 includes the Castro, has been one of the city officials working with the Sisters to try to make fixes to the event.
In a text exchange with the Bay Area Reporter Friday, Wiener said he’s talking with the mayor’s office, police, transportation officials, and others about what to do next.
He said he’ll be talking to other officials “Over the next two weeks,” and they’ll consult with the Sisters “to determine how Pink Saturday will be managed and by whom. I’m optimistic that we will have a path forward.”
Over the last year, many have talked about starting and ending the festival earlier in the day in an attempt to cut down on rowdier crowds, who tend to show up later in the event.
“We very much want Pink Saturday to continue, likely as an event that begins and ends earlier than before,” said Wiener, who the Sisters informed of their decision Wednesday, February 11. “We believe an earlier start and end time will address a number of the problems the event has experienced in recent years.”
The supervisor pointed to the fact that the U.S. Supreme Court is expected to rule around the time of this year’s Pride celebrations whether same-sex marriage should be legal in all 50 states. Attendance at Pride is likely to increase, especially if the justices rule in favor of marriage equality.
“Pride weekend is likely going to be even bigger than normal,” said Wiener. “We have to be prepared, and that means prepared for Pink Saturday as well.”
Although different groups organize Pink Saturday and the Pride parade and celebration, many people think of the events as being related.
Wiener expressed support for the Sisters.
“I completely respect the Sisters’ decision, which they made after thorough community outreach and thoughtful deliberation,” he said. “I’m extremely grateful for the many years of hard work the Sisters put in to Pink Saturday. The Sisters managed the event through some very trying years, and they did it solely because of their passion for the community.”
The B.A.R. will have more on this story in the Thursday, February 20 edition of the paper.