For SF Pride, it’s fabulous to be 40 

In June 1970, a few hundred brave souls gathered in Golden Gate Park to commemorate the pivotal Stonewall riots, the event in New York that one year earlier had birthed a small gay-rights movement.

Four decades later, that little assemblage has matured into what is arguably The City’s biggest annual event: More than 1 million people descend on San Francisco, taking over entire neighborhoods, filling hotels, organizing movements, being visible, and commemorating and celebrating the strides they’ve made.

The theme for this year’s San Francisco Pride is “Forty and Fabulous.” Every community leader who has ever been chosen to be a grand marshal of the parade has been asked to return to celebrate the heritage of the movement.

The event has mushroomed in terms of numbers, and has morphed with the community and its needs, said Paul Boneberg, executive director of the GLBT Historical Society, a group devoted to studying and recording the history of the gay rights movement.

The first event was hardly a parade, consisting of 30 “hair fairies” marching down Polk Street, according to San Francisco Pride’s website. It was described as a “birthday party” for the Stonewall riots, which had occurred a year before when police raided a gay bar in New York’s Greenwich Village.

Decades later, the event still remains a political tool, said San Francisco Pride Executive Director Amy Andre.

“By honoring the past, you’re also honoring the political struggles the LGBT community engages in,” Andre said.

Weekend-long event pumps big bucks into city economy

The annual San Francisco Pride celebration doesn’t just produce political organizations, coming-out experiences and new couples: It also produces beaucoup bucks for The City.

With an estimated 1.2 million participants coming into San Francisco this weekend — some from across the Bay, others from across oceans — hotels sell out, restaurants are busy, public transit lines bustle and store shelves in some neighborhoods begin to empty. 

There aren’t any current estimates of the economic impact on San Francisco, but an analysis in 2005, when approximately 1 million people participated in Pride, indicated the economic impact was $125 million.

The Kimpton Hotels chain counts among those that benefit from the event, said spokeswoman Nancy Uber-Rose. The chain has nine hotels in San Francisco, including the Sir Francis Drake, and all of them are expected to sell out this weekend, she said.

Steve Adams, president of the Merchants of Upper Market and Castro and vice president of Sterling Bank and Trust, said there’s no other event that comes close to being the economic driver that Pride has become in his neighborhood.

“Pride is like Christmas in the Castro,” Adams said. “With Pride, you not only have the local draw; it’s regional, it’s from across the country and it’s worldwide. And the majority of those people make their way to the Castro to shop and drink.”

He said he has attended the event for 17 years and has seen it grow larger and larger.

“It’s almost become more of a holiday,” Adams said. “I know people who take time off of work for it; I’m taking time off work too.”

And the benefits aren’t limited to established businesses, he said.

“I’ve noticed little kids out in the neighborhood with lemonade stands making money off it,” Adams said, laughing. “These kids aren’t dumb.”

— Katie Worth

If you go


The 32nd annual Pride Concert: The Sound of Fabulous: A Lesbian/Gay Chorus of San Francisco and San Francisco Lesbian/Gay Freedom Band concert. 8 p.m., $15-$40, Mission High School, 3750 18th St. (at Dolores Street)


S.F. Pride Celebration in Civic Center: Noon to 6 p.m., Civic Center

LGBTQ Family Brunch-Potluck: 10:30 a.m., free, South Playground, Civic Center, Larkin and Grove streets

San Francisco Dyke March — Dyke Planet/Green Planet: 3 p.m. tally; 7 p.m. march, Dolores Park, Dolores and 18th streets


S.F. Pride Celebration in Civic Center: Noon to 7 p.m., Civic Center

S.F. Pride Parade: Parade kicks off at 10:30 a.m. at Market and Beale streets and ends at Market and Eighth streets

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Katie Worth

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