Almost on cue on Memorial Day, which traditionally signals the beginning of summer, the foghorn bellowed throughout the day, announcing summer’s arrival in San Francisco. But another signal of summer is our unique street festivals, each slightly different, depending on the neighborhood, and reflecting each neighborhood’s distinctive characteristics.
The 37th Annual Union Street Fair kicks off the season Saturday and Sunday, June 1–2 from Gough Street to Steiner Street. Keeping the theme of the last few years, eco-urban, many vendors feature recycled, repurposed, and sustainable wares, but in all, over 150 booths will offer specialty arts, crafts, and products. Dozens of food vendors will dish out our favorite street-fair specialties, but don’t forget the many restaurants along Union Street with outdoor seating where you can have a more refined experience while still feeling a part of the madding crowd. Events include continuous live music on two stages each day, a waiter’s race relay on Sunday (noon–1:30, Webster Street), chef demos both days (noon–5 p.m., Gough Street), and a fashion show both days (noon–1 p.m., 3–4 p.m., Gough/Octavia Street) featuring the latest styles from Union Street’s finest and trendiest boutiques (and be sure to pay them a visit as well). As with the last several years, the fair will be alcohol free, much to the disdain of some and delight of others. The fair is open from 10 a.m.–6 p.m. each day.
Next up is the 59th Annual North Beach Fair on June 15–16, considered to be the country’s original street fair. Expect about the same number of booths and vendors as Union Street, but this fair spans several streets (Columbus Avenue between Broadway and Green; Vallejo and Green Streets between Grant and Columbus; and Grant Avenue between Filbert and Columbus) making for a true North Beach experience. The fair features traditional Italian street painting with chalk, and you can also buy space for your little ones to create their own masterpieces. There will be live music on two stages, and you can enjoy your beer and wine in the beverage gardens. Remember to bring your pets for the traditional and popular animal blessing at the Shrine of St. Francis of Assisi (610 Vallejo Street) each day from 2–3 p.m. And, again, don’t forget to visit the local merchants who make up the vibrant and colorful North Beach neighborhood we love. The activity is from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. each day. Proceeds from the fair benefit the North Beach Business Association, which funds many neighborhood projects from hanging flower baskets to holiday lighting to sidewalk steam cleaning, as well as providing financial support for neighborhood organizations.