How Weird festivities return to SoMa

Masks required, costumes encouraged at electronic music and art street party

After belabored planning and at great expense, San Francisco’s 22nd How Weird Street Faire will be going live on Sept. 12 in its traditional South of Market location.

“We’re the first outdoor event of this size to happen since the pandemic started,” said Justin Weiner, director of marketing and stages for the musical street party in and around Howard and Second streets.

The annual event — featuring eight stages of electronic music, vendors offering weird fashions and other items, an art alley showcasing “extreme creativity,” and refreshments — is typically held in early May.

Due to COVID, it went virtual in May 2020, with four simultaneous streaming channels.

This year, because “it wasn’t looking like May would be a good time to do it,” Weiner said, the event presented by a nonprofit called the World Peace Through Technology Organization was moved to September, and organizing it wasn’t easy.

“It’s been difficult. There were a lot of variables, a lot of new issues came up, mostly related to COVID and the effects of COVID. We had a hard time getting equipment and infrastructure needed for the fair,” Weiner said, adding that staffing was more complex than typical and that the cost of everything was exponentially higher than in previous years.

He adds, “But at this point, we’ve pretty much acquired everything and things are on the way, so we’re feeling good about it.”

Noting that The City’s COVID case numbers are encouraging, he says, “Hopefully people behave themselves in a way that keeps us safe.”

Nearly 20,000 people have attended in past years. As for the expected crowd this weekend, Weiner says, “So far, it’s really hard to say, especially with the delta variant and everything. But it’s looking like it’s heading toward something similar.”

While admission used to be a modest fee of $11.11, this year it’s $30 in advance and $40 at the entrance, again due to the pandemic.

And in keeping in accord with COVID health codes, all fair-goers must show proof of vaccination at the entrance (unvaccinated youngsters under 12 and under must be accompanied by a vaccinated adult) and everyone must wear a mask.

While mask-wearing hasn’t previously been mandatory, How Weird organizers are anticipating seeing creative face coverings complementing “amazing” outfits that have long been a big part of the festivities.

Weiner says fairgoers are people who “like to dress up in costumes, people who like dance music and dancing in the street, people that like to shop at unique and eclectic stores to get designer goods and people that like art.” He adds, “It’s kind of interesting to see the full mix of all those people, then sprinkle in some tourists, and locals and people who live nearby. It’s a very diverse mix of people.”

After making it through a “crazy year” and the long permitting process that required signoff from city agencies including the public health, police and fire departments, Weiner admits that he and How Weird presenters are “kind of amazed it’s happening” this year.

But he adds, “It’s going to be amazing for people to see their friends again” and “it’s going to be special for all of the artists” who will be “unleashing great music on the stages and cool stuff in the stores.”

IF YOU GO

How Weird Street Faire

Where: Entrances at Howard and First streets; Howard and New Montgomery streets; Folsom and Second streets; Mission and Second streets, S.F.

When: Noon to 8 p.m. Sept. 12

Admission: $30 to $40

Contact: howweird.org

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