2 min

Toronto’s Church St Fetish Fair embraces sex, community

'The fair has a political agenda,' says organizer

Credit: Matt Mills

“Sexual acceptance was what brought us here, the idea of identifying ourselves sexually, so this festival is about expression and celebrating differences.”

So says David Wootton, manager of the Church Wellesley Village Business Improvement Area (CWVBIA), which holds the annual Church Street Fetish Fair. The Fair’s seventh edition takes place Sunday, August 15 and promises to draw fetishists of all stripes to enjoy a day of leather-clad schmoozing amid extended bar patio hours, dozens of vendor and community info booths and three entertainment stages.

“The fair has a political agenda,” says Wootton. “It does brand this neighbourhood — it keeps the sex in the Village. We need to keep a certain amount of that so that members of the global community know we still identify with sexual freedom and sexual practice.”

Bob Watkin, the Fair’s co-producer, stresses the event’s extreme diversity, which sometimes surprises even its own attendees.

“It often amuses me how people react to seeing other parts of the community,” he says. “Someone with an extreme fetish will be shocked when they see, you know, the square dancing group or the Righteously Outrageous Twirling Corps, and vice versa. It’s extremely diverse, and that’s what we try to respect.”

The Fair has grown considerably since its inception in 2004. Wootton says that last year’s fair drew 53 percent more vendors than the year before, and the crowd numbered more than 30,000. He expects further growth for this summer’s edition and in particular hopes to draw more women to the event.

“I heard that a lot of women don’t feel they fit in the community, which surprised me. We’re asking the women to join in too; it’s for everyone.”

“We have a formula that works, and that formula is being really about the community, to be as inclusive as we can possibly be,” says Watkin.

Programming is not yet finalized, but Watkin promises a wide variety of stage acts, including metal band Crackpuppy, burlesque acts and a kinky Weimar Berlin-inspired play. Drag queen Miss Conception returns to emcee, and Priape will present its annual fashion show.

Watkin is particularly enthused about the fire show, held every year at sundown to close the Fair. “It’s got everything from poi, fire spinning, fire breathing, fire striptease… I think we’re even having fire whips this year.”

Wootton is hopeful that in future years additional sponsorships will help the event to grow even more. Among other things, he’d like to see more water-related activities, such as a misting tent to help attendees combat the heat.

“But that costs money, and the Fair costs a bundle already, so for now we can just afford to do what we’re doing.”

Watkin says the Fair relies on 80 to 100 volunteers and welcomes volunteer applications via the event’s website,