SF's festival season: Ready for revelry 

Whether you’re looking to break a sweat or just absorb some solid tunes, The City’s festival season has something to satisfy every taste — rain or shine.

About one-third of the 17 million tourists who visit San Francisco each year flock to The City during the summer season, and the local events “are one of our primary drivers for people to come to San Francisco,” San Francisco Visitors and Convention Bureau president and CEO Joe D’Alessandro said. “I love them all.”

The City kicks off the festival season with the 99th annual ING Bay to Breakers 12-kilometer run May 16, where tens of thousands of superheroes, lifeguards and salmon trail the elite runners who fly from around the world to compete.

But they, like all other summer partiers, are inevitably vulnerable to that pesky chance of rain, or the threat of fog roaming from its quarters on the Golden Gate Bridge.

While meteorologists say The City gets less than half an inch of rain between May and the fall equinox in September, it could strike at any moment, and that’s not including moisture from the haze.

“What few days this summer season will it rain? I’m not going to go out on that little bitty limb,” said meteorologist Dianne Henderson of the National Weather Service. “In San Francisco, you plan everything for climate, but then weather is what you get.”

The organizers of the “granddaddy of all leather events,” the Folsom Street Fair, are accustomed to unpredictable climate changes with its late-September date.

“Traditionally, it’s one of those weekends that is usually really beautiful, but it has rained. In fact, it poured and it was one of the funniest street fairs just because everyone was so excited about it,” said the fair’s executive director, Demetri Moshoyannis.

But summer living, however, isn’t easy for the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, which is rerouting its buses for nearly 30 street closures through September — and that’s doesn’t includes extra loops for game days or parades.

“The numerous street festivals held in San Francisco all provide residents and visitors unusual ways to enjoy this beautiful city,” SFMTA spokeswoman Kristen Holland wrote in an e-mail. “While each event has its own logistical challenges, the SFMTA works very closely with the event organizers and the surrounding communities to help make the event successful.” 


Don't-miss events

ING Bay to Breakers

May 16, race starts at 8 a.m. The 99th running of the famous cross-town race that draws thousands, from the serious to the merry. [From Beale and Mission streets to Golden Gate Park; (415) 359-2800, www.ingbaytobreakers.com]

Yerba Buena Gardens Festival
May through November. Celebrating its 10th year, the festival features 100 events, including classical and jazz concerts, opera, international music events, theater, dance, children’s and family programs, visual art exhibits, educational programs and cultural events. [Mission Street between Third and Fourth streets, (415) 543-1718, www.ybgf.org]

Union Street Festival
June 5-6, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. The six-block festival highlights two blocks of green exhibitors, 25 gourmet food booths and two musical stages, among other arts and crafts. [Union Street between Gough and Steiner streets, (800) 310-6563, www.unionstreetfestival.com]

33rd Haight Ashbury Street Fair
June 13, 11:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. It’s the offspring of a nonprofit that celebrates the history of the Haight-Ashbury district with several booths along the main stretch, including two stages for music. [www.haightashburystreetfair.org]

56th annual North Beach Festival
June 19-20. This one has three stages for live entertainment with more than 125 booths and 20 gourmet food booths and a beverage garden and a blessing of the animals. [(800) 310-6563, www.sresproductions.com/north_beach_festival.html]

Stern Grove Festival
Sundays June 20 to Aug. 22. The natural amphitheater holds one of the oldest free concert series in the Bay Area. [Sigmund Stern Grove, 19th Avenue and Sloat Boulevard, (415) 252-6252, www.sterngrove.org]

40th San Francisco Pride Celebration and Parade
June 26–27, 10:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Think flamboyant for this celebration that attracts many tourists. [Parade starts at 10:30 a.m. at Market and Beale streets, ends at Civic Center Plaza, celebration from noon to 6 p.m., (415) 864-0831, www.sfpride.org]

Fillmore Jazz Festival
July 3–4, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. From Asian to Cajun, this festival boasts that it’s the largest free jazz event on the West Coast. [Fillmore Street between Jackson and Eddy streets, (800) 310-6563, www.fillmorejazzfestival.com]

Fourth of July on the Waterfront
3 to 9:30 p.m. A star-spangled event complete with traditional fireworks over the water. [Pier 39, www.pier39.com/Events/events.htm]

17th Bernal Heights Neighborhood Center’s Hillwide Garage Sale
Aug. 14, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. You can register, donate or shop at this annual garage sale. Last year, it cost $30 at the “garage” door, but proceeds benefitted the neighborhood center. [Cortland Avenue, (415) 206-2140, ext. 148, www.bhnc.org]

Outside Lands Festival
Aug. 13–15. Last year brought us M.I.A. and Radiohead. This is the third year for a festival that has attracted hundreds of thousands of people to the park. [Golden Gate Park, www.sfoutsidelands.com/index.php]

15th Ghirardelli Square Chocolate Festival
Sept. 11–12, noon to 5 p.m. $20 gets you 15 samples at the family event, with wine, that benefits Project Open Hands. [Ghirardelli Square, (415) 775-5500, www.ghirardellisq.com]

Polk Street Blues Festival
Sept. 24–26, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. A marketplace, two main stages and several arts and crafts booths make up what’s known as the only free blues festival in The City. [Upper Polk Street, (800) 310-6563, www.polkstreetbluesfestival.com]

Folsom Street Fair
Sept. 26, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. The fair covers 13 city blocks and has one of The City’s biggest international adult audiences, with more than 400,000 people and 250 exhibitors. [www.folsomstreetfair.org]

10th Hardly Strictly Bluegrass
Oct. 1-3. The perfect sunset to The City’s summertime fun, this free event last year had six stages, hundreds of musicians and upwards of 750,000 people. [Speedway Meadow, Golden Gate Park, www.strictlybluegrass.com]

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Kamala Kelkar

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