Everything You Need To Know About the Castro Street Fair
A city of different neighborhoods tucked among the rolling hills, San Francisco’s cultural diversity is built right into our geography. One of the city’s best examples of this is the Castro District, a bustling neighborhood famous for being the center of the known LGBTQ universe.
Many of San Francisco’s unique neighborhoods host their own annual fairs, showcasing local businesses and performances, and the Castro is no exception. In fact, the Castro Street Fair is one of the largest and open to everyone, so put on your most colorful clothes and join in.
An Important Legacy
Started by legendary activist Harvey Milk in 1974 in reaction to the discriminatory policies of local merchants, the first Castro Street Fair drew over 5,000 attendees. In fact, the Castro Street Fair was one of the main reasons that the Castro transformed into the center of the LGBTQ community not just for San Francisco but for the entire country. As both a protest and a celebration, the Castro Street Fair became a flashpoint of the civil rights struggle, as well as a place for connecting with the community.
Now in it’s 44th year, the Castro Street Fair is one of San Francisco’s most important festivals and contends with the annual Pride Festival and Parade as the top LGBT event in the city. It is a full-on street party that lasts all day, with multiple live music stages at key intersections and open-air dance parties on every block.
When and Where to Join In
The Castro Street Fair will take place on Sunday, Oct. 7, 2018. It lasts all day and well into the night. Bring your sunscreen, a hat and sunglasses and prepare to have the time of your life.
The Castro Street Fair takes over the entire commercial heart of the Castro and is centered on Castro Street between Market and 19th Streets. Check in at the information booth at the corner of Market and Castro Streets for a map and local tips before heading to the Main Stage at 19th St.
The Castro Street Fair also extends for four blocks along 18th St., where you will find multiple drink booths and a massive food court at the intersection of 18th and Diamond Streets. Don’t forget to duck into the Dance Alley at 18th and Collingwood Streets to get your groove on, or wander down to 18th and Noe Streets to join the line stepping fun at the Sundance Saloon. Many of the establishments along Market St. will also be celebrating the Castro Street Fair, so be sure to check them out, too.
How to Get There
From downtown San Francisco, the Castro is easy to reach on public transit. Just take the K, L, M or T Muni Metro trains and exit at the Castro St. Station. You'll be in the heart of the action. Alternatively, for a fun and scenic ride, take the F Market streetcar up Market St. to its terminus at Castro and Market Streets.
Sights, Sounds, and Snacks
The Castro Street Fair is also a huge showcase of the creative talent in the Castro District and the larger LGBTQ community of the Bay Area. There will be hundreds of different artisan stalls where you can purchase unique gift items for friends and family. From the inspirational printed hoodies and T-shirts of the Stay Up Movement to the LGBTQ-themed pop art illustrations of local California artist Gabriel Garbow, a wide range of one-of-a-kind and uniquely San Francisco items will be on display.
Over in the food court, sample the innovative flavors of favorite local eateries and food producers. From the hearty satisfaction of Aunt Betty’s Gourmet Corn Dogs, a staple of the Northern California festival scene, to the Asian flavors of Meyer’s Fine Foods, a favorite of local farmer’s markets, you'll have many delicious options to choose from when you get the munchies.
Local DJs and bands will front the Main Stage and other smaller stages throughout the fair. Past performers have included The Whoa Nellies! and the San Francisco Lesbian Gay Freedom Band. An adults-only section of the Castro Street Fair called Kink Karnival Way will be hosted by local adult video producer Kink.com.
Do Good in the Neighborhood
The Castro Street Fair is a charitable organization powered by over 20 local non-profit beneficiaries that provide essential services to the Castro and surrounding communities. The funds gained from the fair—a $10 donation is suggested—also go to maintaining the huge rainbow-colored flag that reigns supreme over Harvey Milk Plaza and serves as a source of pride for the LGBTQ community worldwide.
Check out the Castro Street Fair official website for more info.