When the Folsom Street Fair began in 1984 as “Megahood,” it would’ve been impossible to realize that it would become both a historical event and an international brand, bringing leather and fetish players together and inspiring similar fairs in cities around the world.
For anybody who’s been to the original Folsom Street Fair in San Francisco, it’s not hard to imagine why producers from other cities would want to host similar events. But what affiliation do these fairs have with the original, and how do they compare? We spoke to Demetri Moshoyannis, the executive director of Folsom Street Events in San Francisco, to find out.
Folsom Fair North
Toronto’s Folsom Fair North was co-founded in 2003 by John Tiffany and Dean Price because a friend was prevented from entering the US and attending the original fair in San Francisco due to his HIV status. With the help of the San Francisco organizers, a Toronto franchise was born, extending this leather and fetish exhibition brand. According to its old website, there were allegedly 5,500 attendees the first year and between 15,000 and 17,000 the second year, in 2004 — although Tiffany had said in an interview with Xtra that there were only 8,000 people that second year. This was the start of the controversy that led to its demise.
“Part of our agreement with groups has always been that we will license you the name; however, we are going to hold you to certain standards for the Folsom name, and that includes giving us annual financials,” Moshoyannis explains. “We started to hear some concerning reports back from Toronto that there were charities who were promised money who weren’t getting them.”
Tiffany had said that Folsom North hadn’t made any profit during its first two years, which is why the local charities as well as Folsom Street Events in San Francisco (who were to get six percent of the net proceeds), didn’t receive a thing.
However, according to Moshoyannis, Tiffany and Price were asked to be completely transparent and show their financials. He claims that they weren’t forthcoming, so they told them to shut it down.
“Using our name is not an option when you’re in violation of the agreement,” he says.
Folsom Street East
New York City’s Folsom Street East recently took place on June 19, 2016. It is the largest kink and fetish festival on the East Coast and hosts more than 40 exhibitors including businesses and community groups. Much smaller than the San Francisco fair, it still has a main stage show which showcases talent from the LGBT and allied fetish community.
Today, Folsom Street East has the rights for the Folsom name in the New York tri-state area, which includes New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut. “So, for example, if they wanted to do a Folsom Jersey Shore, they could do that,” Moshoyannis adds. “Basically, the long and short of it is that we have nothing to do with Folsom Street East,” says Moshoyannis. “There’s no affiliation whatsoever.”
Folsom Street Events in San Francisco owns the rights in 47 of the 50 United States, and also has its trademark in Canada, the European Union and Australia.
Folsom Street East is known for creating spaces for leather and kink folks on the East Coast, while giving back to the community. They’ve granted more than $250,000 since 1997 to such places as Cycle for the Cause, The New York City AntiViolence Project, VisualAIDS, The LGBT Community Center, Housing Works, and God’s Love We Deliver.
Berlin’s Folsom Europe seems to be the poster child for how a Folsom franchise should be run.
This year it took place in September 2016. Although smaller than the fair in San Francisco, it expected 20,000 leather and kinksters this year, making it Europe’s biggest fetish event.
“Their expression of fetishism and leather are much more serious. They take what they do way more seriously than we do,” Moshoyannis says. “When they go to the street fair, they are in head-to-toe leather, rubber, uniform.”
One has to ask — what does it take to maintain such a successful Folsom franchise?
“Since the very beginning, we’ve basically had agreements where we’ve licensed our name to them,” explains Moshoyannis. “They now pay us a licensing fee.”