San Francisco Pride – The Exhibitor’s Guide

This is a tale of a wild, colorful and exhausting weekend told from the perspective of an exhibitor at San Francisco Pride (that’s me!). While my experience as an exhibitor was a little bit different from the regular Pride-Goer (mostly because I was contained to my booth for most of the event), I can still offer insightful tips and interesting stories that anyone looking to attend this event will find helpful. I really wish I had more photos to share with you, but I was busy working. (Wink Wink). So, let’s get started.

The Night Before

We arrived in San Francisco the evening before Pride. My car was loaded to the max full of swag and various items needed for the booth. The drive from Reno was pretty smooth until we hit the Bay Bridge – then it was bumper to bumper traffic until we reached our hotel. We were staying at the Hotel Zepplin. It was located near Union Square and about a mile from the Civic Center. We knew traffic and parking in San Francisco would be horrendous, so we picked a hotel nearish to the event. This hotel also had some self-serve parking nearby. $35/night or with no in and out privileges. San Francisco is not cheap. While the area around our hotel was decent, the area between our hotel and the Civic Center is called the Tenderloin. It’s got a bad rap, and in my opinion, it’s valid. I know every city has its own problem with homeless and vagrants, but San Francisco is known as the Poop Capital of the US for a reason.

Day One

The event registration packet says you can bring your car to your booth between 6-9am. All vehicles must vacate the premise by 9am. We decided in to invest in a nice little haul wagon and hand cart, load up our stuff and walk to the event. This way we could “sleep in” and take our time in the morning. The haul wagon worked better than I expected. You can use it for events, beach days, sports gear you name. I got mine from Costco. We were loaded up, dressed in our locally designed Pride Shirts and ready for a day of fun. Our first 25-minute walk was a doosey. We walked through the heart of the Tenderloin, and it was an eye-opening experience. It was a pretty gruesome scene to describe, but imagine people sleeping on the sidewalk in their own filth. Also, we witnessed a man creating chaos on the street and a police officer had to use his baton. Some guys started to heckle us as we crossed the street and even pointed a squirt gun at us saying he was harmless. It was uncomfortable. Luckily, once we made it into the event all was good.

The event was scheduled to start at noon on Saturday. We arrived at our booth around 10 and had a strong of people lined up by 10 am. We even had some people come by before we were fully set up. I want to keep this blog about the event, so I won’t go into too much booth detail. However, there are a lot of them. Everyone, Equality California, Red Bull, Smirnoff, there were loads of sponsors and exhibitors everywhere. You’ll need an empty backpack if you plan to go around to each both collecting free swag.

It’s basically a day of partying. Eat, drink and be merry. While the event closes at 6 pm, the party doesn’t stop there. Everyone then heads to the Castro for a long night of more eating, drinking and dancing. I never made it to Castro District because I was too tired from working, but I watched the news and saw people twerking on cars. Everyone looked like they were having a good time.

Day Two

We decided to head down a little earlier on Sunday. The rumor was Sunday was even crazier than Saturday because it was Parade Day. Yes, there are more people on Sunday, but they are all at the parade which starts at 10 am and ended around 5 pm. We had learned some tricks from Day One that we implemented on Day Two.

Tip #1

Bring Your Own Toilet Paper. There are porta-potties at the event, and they ran out of T.P. halfway through day 1 and they weren’t restocked on Day Two. Bringing our own toilet paper was a live saver.

Tip #2

Bring Your Own Hand Sanitizer. Like the T.P. running out on day 1, so did the water at the handwashing station. We brought our own wipes and Everyone supplied free hand sanitizer.

Tip #3

Be prepared for long lines. And I mean long lines. Breaks were far and few for us because the booth was always packed and the lines were always long. Like, be prepared to wait an hour for your food and another ½ hour for your beer. Lucky for me there was no line for wine, and the Kind booth hooked it up with protein bars to hold me over till dinner.

Tip #4

Be open. This is Pride after all. We saw over 20 fully naked people, interesting costumes – basically, a lot of people fully expressing themselves which is awesome and kind of the purpose of this event.

Tip #5

Have fun. This is the most important one, and the end of the day you want to make sure you’re having a great time which is almost guaranteed at Pride.

Have you been to San Francisco Pride before? What tips do you have? Share them in the comments below!

Until next time….

Cheers!

Keelie

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