What is the Folsom Street Fair?
Folsom Street Fair, aka FSF or simply Folsom, is one of the world’s largest BDSM and fetish lifestyle events. It is open to all gender representations, sexual orientations, and BDSM, or fetish subcultures but has its roots in the gay leather lifestyle scene and the closing event of San Francisco’s Leather Pride Week.
Location, year of establishment & owner
Folsom Street Fair, otherwise known as Folsom, started in 1984 and now takes over a large swath of San Francisco’s SoMa [South of Market] area between 8th and 13th streets and is the third-largest outdoor spectator event in all of California.
Field of expertise, activities, structure & audience
While much controversy surrounds the annual event, it is largely seen as a positive community building and culturally reaffirming gathering. It brings together many subcultures of the BDSM world including the LGBTQ leather community, exhibitionists, masochists, bondage enthusiasts, pony play practitioners, and more. The overall theme is very reminiscent of Pride celebrations both in the LGBTQ and larger kink community. While many conservative groups decry the actions that occur during the Folsom Street Fair, an overall theme and enforcement of consent is paramount, both in the acts being performed and from attendees.
Folsom Street Fair is considered a “cannot miss’ event for lifestyle BDSM and fetish practitioners and is a mecca for anyone in the leather subculture.
In the 25 years since Folsom Street Fair’s inception, it has grown to attract on average 400,000 attendees and has inspired multiple other international events such as:
- Folsom Street East is a smaller New York City version of the event, though it has no direct affiliation with the San Francisco Counterpart.
- Folsom Europe was established in Berlin, Germany in 2003 by the event organizers and is also a non-profit charity event that continues the tradition of the San Francisco counterpart.
- Folsom Fair North aka FFN was a short-lived Canadian version of the festival, held in Toronto, Ontario, Canada from 2003 until 2008 and has since been canceled.
Related practices and fetishes
International Mr. Leather held in Chicago, IL is the largest leather subculture event in the world. Many attendees of Folsom also attend this event.