3 min

Folsom Street Fair turns 30

San Francisco embraces world’s most famous leather and BDSM event

Puppy play has grown in popularity in recent years. Credit: Bill Weaver

San Francisco’s famed Folsom Street Fair (FSF) is the world’s largest leather event and showcase for BDSM products and culture. But no one has seen it all quite like FSF executive director Demetri Moshoyannis, who has run the festival for eight years. 

“My favourite story is about this guy jerking off from a sixth-floor window a few years ago, and the crowd was cheering him on,” Moshoyannis remembers. “Then he shot his load, and the crowd erupted in a massive cheer! It was the silliest, craziest thing I think I’ve ever seen! But since that incident — it got us into trouble but was totally hilarious — we’ve been trying to tamper things down a little bit, at least in terms of visibility.”

FSF will take place Sunday, Sept 29. Now 30 years old,  the event is the climax of San Francisco’s Leather Pride Week. The one-day fair itself attracts more than 400,000 people, and Moshoyannis estimates that “between five and eight percent are international tourists. Not only are hundreds of thousands of people spread out over 13 city blocks, but the demographics are also interesting: we are still a predominantly gay event, but I’d say 25 percent are straight people and a lot [are] women. Even the fetishes have changed over time: when I first started, rubber was significant in the community, but since then it has really surged in popularity, as well as the phenomenon of ‘puppy play.’”

The FSF will present live indie music and electronic dance music on its main stage from 11am to 6:30pm on Sunday, Sept 29. Headliners this year are Hercules and Love Affair, Miami Horror and Light Asylum.

In addition to the main live performance stage, FSF will feature two dance areas: Magnitude Dance Area on Folsom Street between 11th and 12th streets and the Deviants Dance Area on Folsom between 7th and 8th streets. Headlining the Magnitude Dance Area are circuit legends Jamie J Sanchez and Tony Moran. Headlining the Deviants Dance Area are house and techno legends Mark Moore, of S’Express fame, and Boris, from the renowned Berghain in Berlin. The music begins in both areas at 11am.

There are also two big parties of note: more than 2,500 people are expected to attend the Sept 28 Saturday-night Magnitude party taking place in two adjacent venues: Terra and Factory. “Leather and fetish enthusiasts will sweat to the music, play hard in the dungeon, enjoy 3D visuals and laser light shows, mix, mingle, cruise, and fuck 'til dawn,” FSF states on its website.

Revellers will keep the energy going at Deviants, the official Sunday closing party, which is relocating to 11th Street between Folsom and Harrison, in front of BeatBox and Mist. One ticket allows entry into both clubs as well as a fenced-in, outdoor bar area.

There will also be more than 200 exhibitors at the fair itself. “We are probably the largest expo of its kind in the world, everything from adult toys and novelties to floggers,” Moshoyannis says. “A lot of people who come to visit are not really prepared for what they’re about to see and experience. I don’t think the average Fifty Shades of Grey reader would be in any way prepared for what they will see at FSF. Reality and fantasy can be two different things. So not everything you see at the fair will be for you.

“But one of the things I really enjoy about FSF — and some people knock us for this — is that it’s also an event for newcomers. People can come, even if they're not dressed head-to-tail in rubber or fetish gear. They can explore and try things out. It’s good to walk around to see what’s out there that interests you.

“Take the fair in the spirit it’s intended — serious but lighthearted at the same time. I’ve been to almost every single other major leather event on the planet, and I can say there’s nothing like the Folsom Street Fair.”

Folsom Street Fair

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