Yesterday we brought you our beginner's guide and our insider's guide to Folsom Street Fair, which is happening this weekend if you somehow hadn't heard. And today we get some history of the event, which actually began as a non-leathery, neighborhood affair in 1984 that was a community protest against the redevelopment of SoMa.
To back up a bit, the leather community already had an annual affair of sorts in the 70s called the CMC (short for California Motor Club) Carnival, a "motorcycle club" orgy that happened at the Seaman's Hall on Fremont Street in the late 70s, but then died out by the 80s.
As BrokeAss Stuart's Joe Kukura explains, following a history lecture by Dr. Gayle Rubin during this Leather Week, the fair we now call Folsom was first dubbed Megahood, and part of the reason it became so associated with the leather and kink scenes is because the SoMa neighborhood was once home to some 30 gay leather bars, and many of the men who frequented them. One of the most notorious was The Tool Box, located on the present site of Whole Foods on 4th, which was featured in the seminal Life Magazine article "Homosexuality In America," which came out in 1965. Of the bars that still exist, the oldest is The Stud, which opened in 1966 in its original spot at 1535 Folsom (it moved in 1987), and Powerhouse, Hole In the Wall, and The Eagle all remain leather-ish, and open. (The Stud was more home to gay hippies and psychedelia in the 70s, and now plays host to an eclectic mix of parties and scenes, including one for furries.) Read more history on the neighborhood and the leather scene here.
Anyway, the fair grew in size and popularity, going under several names before permanently being known as the Folsom Street Fair beginning in 1991. (1988 was the year, reportedly, that the leather community "took the Fair" as the community itself was beginning to dwindle in the throes of the AIDS crisis.) Since then it's grown to become the second largest outdoor street festival in California (after S.F. Pride), with about 400,000 attendees every September.
And who can forget the great Last Supper poster controversy of 2007...
For more history you should read the whole piece, and check out Folsom Forever, the documentary by Mike Skriff (trailer above) that premiered at Frameline this year. As one person in the doc says, "Street festivals often are the ways in which the memory of a previous population stakes a claim to the memory of its passing."