About This Festival
Everything you’ve heard about San Francisco – that it’s a colorful patchwork of hills and thrills, fog and sun, homos and hippies, freaks and geeks, stoners and savvy entrepreneurs – is true. And never is it truer than during SF Pride weekend.
SF Pride - Homo Heritage
Celebrating the LGBT culture and heritage for over 40 years, this Pride parade is at the heart of what San Francisco is all about – a pioneering city that leads the way in marriage equality, gender rights, and the freedom to let your rainbow (or bear, or lambda, or pink triangle) flag fly. Over a million proud attendees, 200 parade contingents, 300 exhibitors, and more than 20 stages and party venues make this the largest LGBT gathering in the nation.
Held annually in late-June, the official festivities kick off on Saturday with a celebration in San Francisco’s Civic Center, in the shadow of City Hall where Harvey Milk famously became the first openly gay person to be elected to public office, and later where he was assassinated. Throngs of people gather to memorialize milestones in gay history like this, to pay homage to the freedom fighters that came before them, and yes, to party their asses off. With attractions like Homo Hip Hop, Leather Alley and the Faerie Freedom Village, it’s an understatement to say that you can expect some wild times.
Party in Pink
While City Hall is the epicenter of SF Pride, the Castro is of course the true pulse of this event. The annual Dyke March, while not officially a part of SF Pride, is always a fixture on the circuit. Celebrating over 20 years in existence, the San Francisco Dyke March is the first of its kind, inspiring similar movements in cities across the US and Canada. Approximately 50,000 people rally in usually sunny Dolores Park, where lineups of lesbian DJs spin, families picnic, and friends gather to celebrate diversity while raising awareness around dyke rights. Later in the evening, the masses pack up and march from Dolores Park through the Mission District and up into the Castro, where a street party aptly named, “Pink Saturday” awaits. Hosted by a group of renegade queer nuns, the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, the raucous party has been raging for years. While the Sisters are committed to promoting human rights, they’re also ready to fight for the right to party, closing off several blocks in the Castro neighborhood so that revelers have a safe haven to celebrate in.
March to the Beat of a Different Drum
After a full day of fun in the sun and partying in the streets, Pride parade attendees turn in to sleep off the buzz and prepare for Sunday morning, when the famous San Francisco Pride Parade floats down the city’s main thoroughfare, Market Street. The climax of the festivities, the parade extends approximately 1.3 miles, starting at Beale Street and ending at 8th Street. To call this parade colorful would be an understatement. Drag queens drenched in neon feathers and glittering sequins give their best royal waves while half-naked go-go boys gyrate atop elaborate floats depicting everything from the Golden Gate Bridge to Viking ships and iconic San Francisco cable cars. Disco music pulsates through the joyful crowd as Dykes on Bikes rev their Harleys, happy same-sex couples dressed in tuxes and bridal gowns hold up signs promoting marriage equality, and children of same-sex parents bob like balloons from atop their proud mommies’ and daddies’ shoulders. It is, at once, a cacophony of sound, a dazzling spectrum of color and flesh, a raging party, and a touching tribute to the innumerable races, creeds, religions and sexual orientations that make San Francisco the diverse city that it is. But, relative to many other LGBT Pride events around the world, this one is typically a little more political and world affairs-related. So, be prepared to both look sexy and smart at the same time.
Freedom to Love
Once the pride parade has ended, attendees and parade participants retreat to Civic Center where the final party awaits. From 11am until 6pm, DJs, bands and musical acts perform on various stages set up around the area. While the bass pumps and dance parties erupt around the square, food and beverage vendors keep the crowds satiated with everything from frozen margaritas to fried lumpia, from veggie burgers to gluten-free, rainbow-frosted cupcakes. This is San Francisco, after all. Children play on the playground while Cheer SF, the philanthropic cheerleading squad, entertains parents with their high-energy routines. Hippie-dippy flower children float around, wielding baskets of spiked brownies, leather-clad daddies walk hand-in-hand in the sunshine, and Radical Faeries set up camp in the shade. As the day wears on, sunburns may start to emerge, party-goers might nap on picnic blankets on the grass, and the crowd disperses, but the message persists: San Francisco is the place to be for the ultimate celebration of love and freedom, and the freedom to love…proudly.