June is about to bloom, and with that comes a long list of activities to pack into San Francisco Pride month. Kathy Amendola hopes that Cruisin’ the Castro Walking Tours will be one of them.
Fortunately, even the most historically savvy locals might find themselves surprised by what Amendola is showcasing. Recent comments on TripAdvisor.com, which ranks the two-hour historical tour among the Top 20 of 150 San Francisco tours, have been stellar, ranging from “absolutely amazing” to “wonderfully educational.”
So what makes it stand out?
Amendola, who took over the business as sole owner seven years ago — Trevor Hailey launched it back in 1989 — says it’s more than a tour: “It’s an experience.”
The clever Amendola does more than stand in Harvey Milk Plaza or the Pink Triangle Holocaust Memorial Park; she infuses factual information in just the right ways to illuminate how these arenas factor into the The City’s overall lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer tapestry.
“Harvey Milk has a lot to do with inspiring a culture to take roots in this neighborhood,” she says. “The history here is very unique as far as LGBTQ life, and the first civil rights matters that happened here.”
Other notables along the two-hour walk: the site where the AIDS quilt was first made, the history of Proposition 9 and the rainbow flag, and the Harvey Milk Civil Rights Academy, an elementary school that teaches tolerance, diversity and the celebration of diversity.
Another excursion, the Harvey Milk City Hall Tour, is also available.
Yet a new — and big — project also has captured Amendola’s interest: The Rainbow Honor Walk — like the Hollywood Walk of Fame, but with an LGBTQ twist — will make up part of the Cruisin’ tour.
Plaques to be placed on neighborhood streets will “honor people in history who have made significant impacts,” says Amendola.
“We have several hundred names of people, going back to Aristotle, Leonardo Da Vinci and even Winston Churchill, who was bisexual — but we don’t talk about these things,” Amendola adds. “They include people of all different races, sexualities, like Jane Adams, the first American woman to get a Nobel Peace Prize — she was a lesbian.”
For Amendola, the most compelling aspect of her work — and the historic soiree in which she participates — is that “it’s about people, about lives, about human rights. People’s lives change. They’ll talk about it and learn about heroic people, about a community that seeks equal rights and changes. The power of this community and its persistence for equality is just so inspiring.”
IF YOU GO
Where: Meet at rainbow flagpole, Castro and Market streets, S.F.
When: 10 a.m. Mondays-Fridays, 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. Saturdays
Tickets: $15 to $30
Contact: (415) 255-1821, www.cruisinthecastro.com