Thursday, August 9, 2007

San Francisco Cancels Halloween!

According to this article in the San Francisco Chronicle, it's official: no big civic Halloween party in San Francisco, not in the Castro, not out at ATT Park, not anywhere. Supervisor Bevan Dufty, whose district includes the Castro, is officially asking businesses in the Castro to close that night, and at least one prominent business, Cafe Flore, has agreed. Cops will be out in significant force to keep an eye on things, but it seems that the Castro will be tranformed into a literal ghost town for Halloween.

I've not been a huge fan of Halloween in the Castro for a while now; I've never enjoyed massives, and nothing, aside from Folsom Street Fair, is as massive as Hallowen in the Castro. While it was fun the first couple years I lived here, in recent years it's become a scene for gang-banging, and after last year's shooting everybody was pretty well fed up with it. It would be nice to think that there is some way that a modicum of control can be brought to bear over this affair, but short of pat-downs at the gates I don't know what that would be. It will be a huge blow to the fundraising efforts of The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, who collected the gate proceeds, and in general it seems to signal the death of "the gay Christmas."

It's possible that after a year of abstinence the message will get out and some semblance of life will return to the Castro on Halloween, but I'm not optimistic; in some ways San Francisco has become too big, as a city, to return to the kind of neighborhood festivity that was the Castro Halloween. The whole tradition started back in the 1950s when Cliff's Hardware, on Castro Street, had a halloween costume contest for the neighborhood kids. After that, it became a big gay party, a chance to dress up and misbehave when the political (and legal) climate around homosexuality was much tougher (remember, these were the days when you could be arrested for cross-dressing - except on Halloween). But now there are no more kids in the Castro, and gay life is significantly different than it was even twenty years ago. In light of these things, maybe we should ask what purpose the Castro Halloween party serves to our community? If we can't answer that question beyond "well, it's a big party," maybe it is time to let it go.

UPDATE: Over the weekend Sister Selma Soul told me that the Sisters haven't had anything to do with the Castro Halloween party since about 1994, primarily because of all the issues around crowd control that have brought about this year's cancellation. After talking with many people about it, there seems to be a consensus that no one is against a big Halloween party, but that the City is unable to manage the crowd that shows up for this.

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