Thanks to perfect weather the fifth edition of the annual leather fair FFN drew record crowds to a fenced-off area of Allan Gardens on Jul 22.
“The beer garden was hitting around 1,000 [people] at 2pm as a result of good weather,” says FFN organizer John Tiffany. “We’ve had rain for two years and one storm that cleared everyone out. This year there was not a cloud in the sky and last year it was really hot so people came later on. Our maximum for the beer garden was 1,500. We got close to there for three or four hours.”
Tiffany estimates that 3,400 people passed through the gates this year, up from 3,100 people in 2006, most of them were dressed to thrill.
“The fencing allows it to be an adults-only fair where we can sell dildos etc,” says Tiffany. “The police turn a blind eye to a lot going on. They left the TNT MEN [Totally Naked Toronto Men Enjoying Nudity] alone.”
The cost of admission was a suggested $5 donation, which goes toward the cost of running the event. Any proceeds from this year’s fair are earmarked for the Toronto People With AIDS Foundation (TPWAF).
“Our sponsorship money gets us to the fair, covers promotions, etc,” says Tiffany. “The vendors pay for themselves. We have to have $2-million insurance for the city, another two [million] for the park and two [million] for the fair. We pay for beer, truck rental, lighting, sound, police, staging, security. [City councillor] Kyle Rae makes it easy to get but we have lots of bylaw things that we need.”
Tiffany declined to put a figure on the forthcoming donation.
“We’re still counting loonies and toonies,” he says. “We should know in August…. It will probably be after Labour Day when we’ll invite leaders of the community and the press to present the cheque.”
Originally the plan was to split the proceeds between TPWAF and Casey House.
“What happened with Casey House is that June Callwood died and then two of their main people left, including their development officer,” says Tiffany. “They got a new CEO who we didn’t have a relationship with. Their new development person contacted us and said, ‘We’re in such a transition that we’d like to back out as we can’t provide any support.’ They said, ‘Please leave us out this year and offer the donation to [TPWAF].'”
Nancy Hawley, a media consultant for Casey House confirms, “They couldn’t justify being a beneficiary this year… because Casey House couldn’t give the resources. They were happy to let [TPWAF] be the sole beneficiary this year.”
Although this is the fair’s fifth year, only one event so far has resulted in a monetary donation to the intended charity; in 2004 FFN donated $5,000 to the AIDS Committee of Toronto, although there have also been leftover cases of bottled water donated after several events.
In addition to a TPWAF donation Tiffany says FFN hopes to donate toward relighting Allan Garden’s conservatory dome, which has been dark for more than three years. So far FFN has donated $250 to the cause and Tiffany says he hopes to be able to match that this year.
Tiffany says at least $2,500 will be held back this year as seed money for next year’s fair, although he adds this could change depending on forth-coming sponsorship offers.
While Tiffany acknowledges that he and fellow FFN organizer Dean Price have made mistakes in the past — including not adequately explaining to volunteers at the door about how the money collected would be used — he says he’s confident they’re finally on the right track.