When 400,000 fetishists, lookie-loos, drunken revelers, and more alight on 13 blocks in San Francisco again this year, will you end up wishing you had flown the coop instead? Not with these secrets! Here’s how to make the most of your time at the fair with the least amount of stress.
1. Go early. By 2 p.m.-ish, congestion is so bad on some parts of Folsom that if you’re claustrophobic, impatient, or have to pee, welcome to your worst nightmare—one set in hell, as the merciless sun and heat threaten to broil you alive.
Tip: Even though the fair officially starts at 11 a.m., lots of people wander around earlier to scope out where they want to be when the booths open.
2. Be prepared. Bring sunscreen and apply it liberally. Bring water and drink it more liberally than the plentiful beer. Even if you go stark naked otherwise (yes, it’s legal), wear a hat and sunglasses. People do carry parasols and umbrellas, but navigating the crowds gets dicey. Speaking of beer, donate $10 at the gate to get $2 off every drink all day.
Tip: Bring cash. Not every booth accepts cards.
3. Keep an open mind. You’re bound to see things that make you go “hmm.” Human ponies and dogs, sadistic rope bondage suspensions, adult baby accoutrements, people getting beaten black and blue, senior citizens with ribbons tied around their erect...(ahem) walking sticks. Whatever kinky or fetishy thing you can imagine (and probably some you can’t), you might get an eyeful of it. Expect it. Celebrate it. You might discover a new turn-on.
Tip: If you want to ask someone about their fetish, don’t do it while they’re parading, suspending, beating, making out, etc. I could talk your ear off about rope bondage—but not while I’m hanging upside down by one ankle.
4. Take breaks. If walking, bumping, grinding, and goggling for seven hours straight are your thing, by all means have at it. If not, head into one of the many bars, clubs, and restaurants open along Folsom and around the fair blocks. You almost definitely won’t find total peace and quiet, but you can find a seat out of the sun and table service. Even an hour’s break can recharge you.
Tip: Expect whatever you order to take three times as long as usual.
5. Be respectful. Ask permission where reasonable before snapping a photo. Don’t touch anyone without their consent. Follow the fair rules (which include no sexual penetration). Don’t get wasted and throw up on people. Don’t urinate on the sidewalk. Bad behavior creates a bad vibe for everyone—and can get you thrown out or even arrested.
Tip: If you see something questionable, ask one of the many police officers—just make sure they’re real cops. ;-)
And it should go without saying: Have fun! This is a huge party celebrating so much to love about San Francisco. If ever there was a time to let your freak flag fly or even just dip a toe into the pool of your kinky curiosities, this is it.
Evie Vane is the author of Better Bondage for Every Body and The Little Guide to Getting Tied Up, and is a cofounder of the Bay Area Rope Exchange (BARE), which will host 800 square feet of rope bondage demos at the Folsom Street Fair this year.