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San Francisco loves its street fairs, and today we experience the Up Your Alley Street Fair. It is part of the Folsom Street events which also puts on the Folsom Street Fair event in Sept. Up Your Alley Street Fair (it was once upon a time called the Dore Alley Street Fair -- I guess "Up Your Alley" is a bit more provocative) is sort of a smaller version of the Folsom Street Fair. There will be leather and chains, muscle men, leather women, various booths selling goods and bare chest calendars, and just lots of fun people having a good time. But, there is more to it than that. This event (as with other Folsom Street events) is a fundraiser. Some beneficiaries of the event include Project Open Hand (a sort of meals on wheels for folks with AIDS and other serious illnesses), Shanti Project (helps persons living with HIV/AIDS), and PAWS (pets are wonderful friends).

Up Your Alley Street Fair used to be a smaller affair, and the great majority of folks there were locals. It's more widely know about now, however, and there will be visitors/tourists from out of town and quite a few straight folks there as well.

From the Bay Area Reporter:

With the quickly approaching Up Your Alley street fair and the vast array of related events that take place around the same time, San Francisco is poised to yet again celebrate the leather and kinky among us in a truly special way. This year Up Your Alley, produced by Folsom Street Events, takes place on Sunday, July 27, from 11:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. The fair is centered on Dore Alley between Howard and Folsom, continuing on Folsom from 9th to Juniper and the adjoining block of 10th Street.

Many people assume that Up Your Alley and its big brother, Folsom Street Fair, have similar origins, but that's not quite true. Gayle Rubin, Ph.D., author of Deviations: A Gayle Rubin Reader , and the person many consider the world's foremost authority on San Francisco leather history and South of Market history in particular, says this of the fair's origins.

"In contrast to the Folsom Street Fair, which eventually became a leather event, Up Your Alley was a gay and leather event from the start. The first Up Your Alley fair was held on August 25, 1985 on Ringold Alley. The fair was the brainchild of Patrick Toner, who was that year's International Mr. Leather, and Jerry Vallaire. The first Up Your Alley was focused primarily on AIDS and was structured entirely as a fundraising party. It was billed as a 'block party and tea dance' and as a carnival to raise money for three charities: the San Francisco AIDS Fund, the Gay Games II, and Community United Against Violence."

Dr. Rubin explains the fair's move from Ringold Alley to its present location.

"In 1987, the third Up Your Alley moved over to Dore Alley where it was usually referred to as the 'Dore Alley Fair.' It was still mostly a small street party with charity booths, food and drink, and entertainment, although the celebrants themselves were usually the most entertaining feature. It changed significantly and began to converge with the Folsom Street Fair when ownership and management of both fairs were placed into a single nonprofit corporation in 1990."

In 2003, SMMILE became Folsom Street Events, the organization that continues to produce the fair to this day. Folsom Street Events operates as a community nonprofit with proceeds from Up Your Alley, Folsom Street Fair, and other events it produces contributing over $5 million (yes, you read that correctly) over the years to a wide array of charities and worthwhile causes. So remember, when you contribute your donation at the fair's entrance, you're actually helping a lot of people with your money.

Over the years the fair has changed, grown and morphed into what it is today. I talked with Bob Goldfarb, a former Board member starting in 2000 (when the producing organization was SMMILE) who also served as the head of Security, Vice President and eventually President for two years. At that time SMMILE did not have an Executive Director. So Goldfarb produced Up Your Alley for the years he served as President.

While the fair is primarily held so that locals can hang out and enjoy a communal, kinky environment, some out of towners also attend. Aaron Duke, American Leatherman 2013, is one such well known leatherman who travels the nation regularly attending leather and kink events of various kinds. I asked him how Up Your Alley compares to other events he's attended.

"There is nothing like Up Your Alley anywhere," said Duke. "People travel from around the globe to attend this one of a kind, legendary street fair. It's a public exhibition of what makes leather, kink, fetish and BDSM so unique. There are a whole host of events surrounding the weekend that cater to a wide variety of interests. There is always something for everyone. There is a historical legacy of this event. And it's also been an amazing generator of funds for many local and national charities throughout the years."

One of the clubs in the middle of it all is the Power House. I found this on Box Turtle Bulletin this morning.
This interesting history about the place is written under the photo:
The building that housed the Cow Palace had been a long succession of gay bars going back to the 1960s. Before the Cow Palace, it was the In Between. After the Cow Palace, it became the Bolt, the Brig, and finally, the Power House.
And today:
There will probably be some naughtiness going on as boys will be boys (and girls will be girls too) -- all in the spirit of fun, of course. And, who knows -- Porno Pete might even make an appearance. If he does, I'm sure that the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence will greet him with open arms.

Speaking of Porno Pete, he wrote a critical piece about the sisters "Hunky Jesus Contest" event on his blog back in 2011. And, Sister Boom Boom graciously responded. I've reproduced that response for you below (because it's a classic):

First of all the Sisters would like to thank Peter La Barbaria for all the
free publicity he is providing for our Hunky Jesus Contest.  Even in the
most reactionary communities and families there are brilliant young queer
children aching for something truly revolutionary, a chance to be utterly
glamorous, and to royally piss off their uptight, puritanical parents.  The
Sisters often declare their love for Peter and especially appreciate Mr. La
Babar's effectiveness in getting news and images of the Sisters to those
children.  Of course we don't hate anybody, but his saying we do is a great
way to grab the interest of angry resentful children, and we have much
experience in helping GLBT youngsters work through their anger to find a
more joyous spiritual path.

However, as much as Mr. La Barbarella is promoting our appeal to rebellious
youth, it is not really our intention or purpose to offend Christians.  Many
of our friends and fans are Christians as are some of the Sisters.  It's not
even our intention or purpose to offend uptight, humorless prigs, though we
often do so by suggesting that the Deity has a sense of humor.  After all,
God created a garden of paradise for us, declared His/Her love for us, and
created such laughably bizarre creatures as the platypus, the naked mole
rat, and Sarah Palin.  But our mission is not to offend.  Rather we are
dedicated to the expiation of stigmatic guilt and the promulgation of
universal joy.  Still, we do understand that any sort of liberating theology
is offensive to those who want to keep others under their thumbs.  Offending
prudes and tyrants is not our purpose, but we consider it a bit of a bonus.

As nearly all of us grew up in Christian-dominated America, many of us come
from Christian backgrounds, and we include a number of believing Christians,
some still active in their respective churches, we are all familiar with the
ideas and images of Christian culture.  These are for us the best vehicles
for promoting our ideal of a God who loves and laughs.  We also have some
Jewish sisters and since nearly all Americans have some familiarity with
Jewish culture - if only through sit-coms - we sometimes include some Jewish
humor.  And why not?  It couldn't hurt!

Mr. La Boobaria is correct that we seem to neglect our Muslim brothers and
sisters, many of whom are clearly in need of a good laugh. We must confess
that we don't have the same sort of inside knowledge of Islamic culture as
we do of Christian and Jewish cultures.  From "The Axis of Evil Comedy Tour"
to "Little Mosque on the Prairie" we've seen that plenty of Muslims can take
a joke and deliver one, too.   We trust that, especially in the current
political ferment, our Islamic friends will find their voice, their humor,
and their own ways of standing up to pompous prigs and puritans, to assert
that the one true God who is all mercy and compassion also loves a good
laugh.  

Originally posted to librarisingnsf on Sun Jul 27, 2014 at 11:56 AM PDT.

Also republished by Remembering LGBT History.

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