Recent Comments


    The First Castro Street Fairs – Bay Times Photographer Rink Was There

    1-PHOTO-RINK-BT_Harvey_Milk_at_Castro_Street_Fair1974 was a seminal year in our community’s history. Harvey Milk, then dubbed “The Mayor of Castro Street,” helped to found the Castro Village Association to support LGBT businesses. As president of the association, Milk organized the very first Castro Street Fair in an effort to draw customers to the Castro. More than 5,000 people attended, stunning members of the Eureka Valley Merchants Association that were not supportive of the gay community. Milk’s fair blew them away, since it broke sales records for businesses in the Castro.

    Milk, who was running a camera store with gay rights activist Scott Smith, knew photographer Rink and admired his work. Rink shares that Milk and Smith “invited me onto their apartment house roof to photograph the first Castro Street Fair in 1974.” Why the roof? “Because of permit obstruction by homophobic city supervisors, two lanes of Castro Street were open to traffic during the fair, which made Harvey furious!” Such City Hall grandstanding incited the young, politically charged activist to escalate his efforts toward building
    a stronger, more unified LGBT community.

    Rink photographed subsequent Castro Street Fairs, noting how Milk and his colleagues would build momentum by inviting their customers, neighbors and supporters. “He wanted an inclusive fair,” Rink says. “When I visited his Castro camera store to buy film and talk politics and the arts with Harvey, he introduced me to activists from other parts of the city who had never been to the Castro District.” He continues that Milk “carefully listened to” representatives of all local groups, big and small, “and Harvey made it clear to them that he would work on their projects, in exchange for them considering his projects.”

    “Harvey’s enthusiasm for the Castro Street Fair was infectious,” Rink recalls. “Many of the activists from other neighborhoods proposed similar fairs throughout San Francisco, after walking the fair with Harvey.” On a lighter note, “Harvey was fully involved in the fair to the point that he agreed to be a target of the dunk tank for his friends and non-friends with a strong baseball arm.”

    “He was also joyful in his booth and stage hopping, greeting everyone along the way, and making introductions. Harvey was quoted with his typical wit in a SF Chronicle Castro Street Fair photograph caption, saying that, ‘It was a good fair, and with none of those weirdo’s from Marin.’”

    Milk invited Rink to place his photographs of the 1974 Castro Street Fair in the windows of his store. Milk referred to it as: “The first public display, on the street, of gay life in San Francisco.” Milk told Rink that “he heard positive comments about the photographs, and that people felt empowered. They were inspired to come out after seeing so many LGBT people obviously and openly enjoying themselves.”

    Bay Times photographer Rink will be photographing the Castro Street Fair again this year for the event’s 40th Anniversary. Come out, and maybe he will snap a photo of you for the LGBT history books. Please also stop by the Bay Times booth to say hello to publisher and “Betty’s List” founder Dr. Betty Sullivan along with other members of our team. Be a part of this great tradition on our street and, as Milk first envisioned, show support for the local businesses that help to unify and enliven our community on this and every other day.