My first summer in San Francisco was a memorable one. San Francisco, I had heard, is a delight to live in. Frankly, the first time I came here, I felt nothing but fright. For some reason, the rolling streets made me dizzy, the costume-obsessed people sent jitters in me and the foggy weather made me somewhat homesick.
Living in San Francisco was like living in a movie. Everything seemed larger than life here. And everyone seemed a bit wacky. To my surprise though, and highly unexpectedly, I made a few (crazy) friends of my own. A happy-go-gay hair dresser and a Greek goddess who worked as a waitress in my favourite bistro. With them around, it was as though SF was a new city. I warmed up to the mid-day chills and even learned to co-exist with the crackheads and the homeless.
And then I experienced this phenomenon that people in SF call summer. It’s amazing to see how the unpredictable and unusually stubborn weather doesn’t come in the way of people getting out and participating in the gaiety of this eluding season.
I loved how there were so many activities to choose from! Every corner of this marvellous city was full of festivity and celebrations of some kind. My joy of excess was short-lived though, my summer plan was already made for me, with no consultation whatsoever with me. Joshua, my gay friend had predictably chosen the LGBTQ parade as one of our to-dos and Adrienne thought that the Stern Grove festival would be a perfect welcome for me, who was living here for the past 6 months. (You haven’t really arrived in SF, she said, until you have experienced one of its summers)
1. The LGBT Parade
So I’ll first talk about the LGBT Parade. The first thing that came to my mind was ‘Whoa! Colour Overload! But then, what was I expecting? I was surrounded by colourful personalities that had no qualms about expressing themselves in entirety, celebrating their queerness and replacing the societal stereotypes with pompous shows of gay pride.
I have to confess, I felt a mix of overwhelming emotions like awe, shock and a sort of hypnotic trance when I was in the midst of half-naked, colour soaked and some extremely good looking gay and lesbian revellers. They decked themselves with vivid balloons-cum- wings; they rocked leather pants and belts like they were just out of a John Travolta movie and colourful wigs were the order of the day.
Animal-themed cars and London-breed double-decker buses were full of cheery people who sang and danced, full of disregard and merry. Oh what an electric atmosphere! Everywhere I looked, there was something happening. More than 20 stages and 300 exhibitors culminated into a massive standing ovation for a million courageous men and women. Cherry on the cake, we then headed to the iconic The Dyke March after party and partied till our heads felt light!
I had truly arrived. I felt ecstatic to be part of this place, full of such a vibrant energy and magnanimous people.
2. The Stern Grove Festival
The Stern Grove Festival was another such place that represented the spirit of San Francisco. An admission free concert that is so well organized is a rare feat. It takes place at the iconic open air Sigmund Stern Grove amphitheatre, I saw blankets lying open on the grass with wine and picnic baskets, families having a gala time and world class performers setting this summer stage on fire.
So laid back yet so full of energy! We drank wine, exchanged life stories and swayed to the music. There’s something about music that binds people together. One rhythm, many souls. One sound that bought together many hearts. It was like being amongst one big family. The Stern Grove Festival takes place in June, mostly mid-June.
3. Bicycle Music Festival
The Stern Grove Music festival gave us the push to look for further more reasons to party. So Joshua, Adrienne and I headed out to the Bicycle Music Festival, which usually takes place towards mid-June. I was extremely intrigued and frankly a bit scared when I was told about what makes this festival unique. A pedal-powered moving stage! Did that mean that I would be sweating and panting over a bicycle to transport the musician snobs and power their gigantic music equipment? Well, turns out, yes and no. So, I was roughly right about the concept but totally wrong about fearing that my legs would fall apart! It was amazing to see how everyone (including the not-really-snobbish musicians) participated in pushing the stage from one place to the other. A musical parade like none I had ever experienced, the Bicycle music festival was one of the most unique experiences of my life. Everyone there was celebrating bikes and music and what a harmonious union it was! Art bikes on display, stages powered by pedals, bicycle-powered smoothies and hundreds of hearts beating on one rhythm resulted in the most energetic atmosphere I had ever been part of. The Festival starts from Golden Gate Park at about 12 pm and the carnival moves to Mission District by the evening.
4. San Francisco Beach Festival
Though I have had many ‘long’, seemingly endless days at work and in life in general, I dragged my reluctant friends (who were getting sick of hangovers and all-nighters) to celebrate the longest day in the year at the summer solstice celebration on Ocean Beach. We were secretly thankful that this pagan ritual was alcohol-free because we knew that our ridiculously low will power would not be able to stop us from poisoning ourselves once again. We carried beach blankets and clean firewood and participated in the ancient rituals of honouring the turning Wheel of the Year. We gazed at the stars and discussed our dreams like a child guesses his future.
5. Treasure Island Flea Market
To seal my perfect summer with a ribbon, I headed out to the Treasure Island Flea Market that takes place on the last weekend of every month at Great Lawn, Eve of the Palms in Treasure Island. I had no idea that this fairytale bazaar sold almost everything under the sun and more! I was happy i had arrived early and alone, and suddenly I was on a mission! Gathering knickknacks and some absolutely useless but incredibly beautiful things, before I knew it, my stomach was shouting out in hunger. The rest of my weekend went by ogling at my recent purchases and mentally preparing for the mean weekdays that stared me on the face.
My first summer in San Francisco got me hooked to the city. It made this strange city feel like home to me. I have been living here since 2 years and each day I discover something new about this wonderful city. Since then, I have made sure that I am around every summer and try to attend all the amazing events that take place all through this season. Summers in San Francisco are not about the insidious sunshine or the uncertain weather; it’s about sunny smiles and the festive spirit. For summer is much more than a season in SF, it’s a celebration.
About The Guest Blogger
Stephen Rogger is a travel expert and mostly interested in planning San Francisco sightseeing itineraries and attending festivals across the globe, keen on knowing different cultures and traditions.