This year I returned to Folsom!
But not Berlin, which is what most people in the UK think of when I mention Folsom. I returned to the original San Francisco Folsom Street Fair, my 4th visit to this iconic event. The worlds largest leather/kink event attracting around 250,000 visitors (for reference that is ten times larger then Folsom Europe).
I’ve never done Folsom East or Folsom Berlin so cannot compare the events, but I know a lot of my European friends have never done Folsom, so I will give you my guide on what to expect and what is there.
Folsom is very much a mixed event – different kinks, fetishes, fashions, gear, sexes, genders all on display! And that for me is what makes it so great – the huge spectrum of people who attend.
And with that many people attending it needs a lot of space – 13 city blocks near the centre of SF! People say it gets busy … really busy, but I think first-timers can often underestimate just how rammed it can be. By the time I left mid-afternoon the queues to get in were stretching over two blocks! Some of the popular areas of the fair were packed, if you don’t like crowds definitely get in early!
There is no ‘ticket fee’ for entering the fair, just a requested donation. If you donate and get a sticker to wear your drinks are $2 cheaper! The suggested donation on entry is $10 – $15, and to make life easier the volunteers accept cash or debit/credit card.
Folsom Street Fair Events (the organisation behind it all) in 2018 donated over $250,000 to its beneficiaries, has so far raised over $7 million since it started in 1984.
Throughout the event, there are places to get drinks at three types of bars – beer, cocktails or soft drinks. Whatever your beverage preference you can find something to enjoy, and by buying drinks you are also helping to raise further funds to support local organisations! Charitable organisations (referred to as a 501(c)3 organisation in USA) can apply to become a Beverage Partner for the event. If successful the organisation provides volunteers to staff and run a bar, and in return, their organisation receives financial support from Folsom. When you buy a pint you could be helping a local HIV charity or Rugby club for example.
In addition to the bars, there are 7 huge water towers around the site to fill up your own water bottle (free of charge), and there is also a Sunscreen Station to get and apply plenty of sunscreen – though I suspect an optional fee to have applied by a porn actor would have been another a good fundraiser.
Folsom is mostly a social event – show off your gear, get to see hot guys and girls in gear. To see some amazing demo’s – bondage, flogging etc all on display. There is more going on of course – companies selling awesome kit and gear, community organisations promoting their services. Companies you may have heard of, stands include Tykables, Grindr, Recon, Bad Dragon, Mr S Leather, Sheets of San Francisco, Boy Butter, KinkBnB, Nasty Kink Pigs and so many others!
There is a dance arena but that doesn’t interest me at all, so never ventured down into it, but it is there for those who want it. And then as modern events do now they have a ‘Main Stage’ area. It is mostly live bands, some sash queens on parade and hosts introducing everyone and keeping the crowds entertained.
I always advise people to arrive at 11 am, as I say it gets busy! And if you want to do any shopping on the stalls, play with the pups, meet some porn actors etc you need to do this before it gets crowded! This year the temperature was a little lower than previous years, I’d say around 20 – 25 oC. I was in full leathers – so very much a good thing for me! Previous years it has been mid/high 30’s! Which is really far too hot for fetish gear – but good for those who like to wear just jocks or get their cocks out (watch out for that sunburn!)
As any Leather event should have – the Bootblacks have a stand. There is a $10 fee (donation to a local charity) to book a slot and then recommended tips for the bootblacks. Because the service can take a while, and many don’t want to queue for an age they have a great ticket system. You pay your $10 donation and are given a numbered ticket, you can either wait to be called or go off around the fair and come back. Whenever a chair is free they call out for the lowest number, so if you go to the stand early in the day and head back a few hours later you are pretty much guaranteed to be sat next.
While my jeans need a decent deep clean and condition I opted to have my boots done, Unicorn boy (u.b.) did an awesome job – and good luck with the SF Bootblack 2020 contest!
There has been much made of recently about Pride events being “family-friendly” events, and even some trying to ban Fetish gear. Folsom is very much not a family event – and nor should it be! It is an event based around fetish and sex.
The nature of the event you are going to get a lot of non-kink people who want to go and see the perverts and players. It may not be quite as debauched as it used to be, but you could still piss on people in a paddling pool, see countless guys with dicks out jerking off, see guys drinking piss directly from the source or in one video going around twitter one guy over the shoulder of another getting fisted.
Any event like this you cannot go and be surprised if your photo ends up on the Internet somewhere. On the way in they have huge signs about consent which was good to see. And we saw some excellent examples of people both following and ignoring these. For example a well endowed young lad (about late 20’s) was asked if he could have his photo taken by someone, he agreed and posed. Photographer then decided that consent meant he could grab hold of the guy’s hard dick – he was very quickly and directly corrected on that! The lad handled the situation really well, and was great to see him have the confidence to do that. Whilst gear, nudity or attendance does not give consent it is a sad fact that you must also be prepared to deal with people who don’t understand that.
And this consent issue is why I haven’t been able to share many photos from the event – it would be so hypocritical of me to do so. Be like the photo of the old dear watching the Pope go past – don’t enjoy the whole event through a lens.