Queer eye for the Summer Guide

Sacramento’s hottest season is a great excuse for anyone to have a gay old time

Illustration By Elwood Smith

“Summer’s here! We’re queer! Ummm … now what?”

Fortunately for you lost gay souls, I am a one-man Fab Five, and I know where to point you for the next three months so you’re tanned, titillated, decorated and never bored.

Summer doesn’t really start until you’ve been to a pride festival—or two or five festivals, depending on your mobility and disposable cash. You’ve worked on your body at the gym (or the buffets), you’ve tried tanning creams and looked like an Oompa Loompa for weeks, and you got the tattoo your mother had nightmares about and the piercing only your gynecologist has seen. Now you’re ready to show yourself off to the world, and the best place to make the biggest splash with the new you is always at pride. In Sacramento, that means the Lambda Freedom Fair.

For starters, there is always a fine selection of family entertainment on the main stage. After that, for those of you who haven’t accessorized your home or body with the ubiquitous, mandated rainbow flag, there are booths selling everything you’ll never need. Politically motivated gays will find tents filled with excitable people fighting for the rights of you and the millions of queer kids yet to be born, and several civic-minded groups that would like you either to be able to get married or to not go straight to hell. Think that getting HIV or some other disease might be a really bad idea? Visit one of the many tables passing out condoms and sage advice on how to stay healthy.

And the beer garden. Ah, yes! The beer garden. A wonderful place to mingle, and it’s the best place to gauge just how drunk you’ll need to be—or how drunk you’ll need to get someone else—in order to hook up. A quick—but careful—check of someone’s complexion will let you know if they’re (a) burnt, (b) lit, (c) cursed with recurring adult acne, or (d) all of the above, and you need another stiff one.

If we’re lucky, at the end of the day, we’ll all have someone to take home and rub aloe vera on our burns—I mean, gorgeous tans. Don’t forget to use at least SPF 50.

If you’re looking to find just the right focus piece for the living room of your East Sac fixer-upper, the Second Saturday Art Walk is the place to hunt. (It’s also favorable hunting grounds for finding that rich East Sac hunk o’ burnin’ love.) Every month, galleries with paintings and sculptures by local artists—and salons disguised as galleries, with all kinds of eclectic stuff—parade their Sunday best one day early.

Summer is the best time for this monthly event; Sacramento evenings are almost invariably warm enough for revealing clothing as you cruise J Street. Also, the galleries go indoor-outdoor with their works, and everything is open late, so you can wait until it’s cool before hitting the town, checking out galleries and scoping out the hotties with sufficient brain/brawn ratios for art appreciation.

“But the Art Walk’s not really that gay!” you say. Puh-leeze. Queers practically invented standing around with a glass of Chablis, staring at chiseled young Adonises. It’s an art form in and of itself. And who works at or owns the galleries? The gays. Who fabulously decorates the non-galleries every month for the shows? The gays. Who are the artists? The gays. None of this is true exclusively, of course, but anyone who’s been to a Second Saturday show not being held in a tattoo parlor has said to themselves more than once, “Wow, there are a lot of queens here tonight.”

There’s always something new to look forward to. And doesn’t SN&R publish a map to the shows? Wow. What an obvious, shameless plug.

Are you as tired of the gym-toned, shaven, I-don’t-need-to-read-’cause-I’m-pretty “queer culture” as I am? No? Well, me neither, really, but sometimes you just need a break. The perfect place to drag your unwashed, unshaven, tight-denim-clad, big-belt-buckled self this summer is the Sierra Stampede Festival & Gay Rodeo.

Cowgirls and cowboys from all over the country converge every year to ride, rope, rassle and decorate steers at this two-day event. Unless the sight of clowns sends you into epileptic fits, watching a white-faced clown in boots and a pink tutu barrel-dive to get away from a rampaging bull is almost worth the price of admission. By day you can watch events at the arena, and by night you can find the contestants all cleaned up and ready for a hootenanny at nearby hotels.

Though I would personally like them to leave the animals out of it completely and just take turns chasing each other around the corral (which is kind of what happens during the Wild Drag Race), there is something phenomenally attractive about a cowboy. Must have been all the Marlboro men I furtively ogled in magazines as a kid. Or Matthew McConaughey, whom I now openly ogle.

There is sooooo much for the ladies, as well! Everybody knows about the erotic connection between women and horseback riding, but have you ever seen a woman in leather pants strap herself to a bucking bronco, grip its muscled flanks with her powerful, sinewy thighs and ride that sweaty beast into exhaustion?

I just went blind typing up that visual, but you dykes out there know what I’m talking about.

Normally more concerned with haute couture, not hot branding irons? Use your summer wisely and take this opportunity to expand your horizons just a scosh—it’s worth it.

Between drinking and art and drinking and cowpokes on hot Saturday nights, many of us fags find ourselves on Sunday mornings looking for a way to cure a hangover or two. Or five or 10 (there are a lot of Saturday nights during the summer). There’s no better way to absorb the lingering cocktails in your belly than with a big stack of flapjacks.

When I told my friends that I was going to a charity pancake breakfast hosted by the Sacramento Valley Leathermen, I got all the questions you’d expect: “Will the guy serving muffins look like The Gimp from Pulp Fiction?” “Do you have to wear a studded leather jockstrap to get in?” “Is there really a breakfast, or is ‘all-you-can-eat sausage’ gay secret code for ‘the sex party’s at Dave’s house’?”

Our author sets out to transform a style-deficient and culture-deprived summer.

Photo Illustration by Larry Dalton and Andrew E. Smith

Except for the odd harness here and there, it’s actually a Sunday-morning-appropriate, rather sedate event. The food is good, the atmosphere is casual and friendly, and the noise levels are kept low so as not to compete with the pounding in your head. It starts early enough that you can get in and out before the summer heat really kicks in, but it goes late enough that you don’t have to get up too early (thank God), assuming you’ve gone to sleep at all.

So, get over your hangover and get yourself some breakfast. And get over your obsession with carbs—as hot as Sacramento gets in the summer, you’ll sweat the calories off just walking to your car.

Decisions decisions. Calvin Klein or Joe Boxer? DKNY or the trailer-park trashy-chic of a beater? More importantly, once the warm water is poured over you, and you start to dance, which outfit shows off your huge package or screams, “My milkshakes are better than yours, bitch”?

Like all hot encounters, summer must come to an end. And though the sweltering Sacramento heat may go on for months, the summer party season here officially ends with the Labor Day weekend Rainbow Festival. There are fewer booths than at pride, so you don’t have to avoid making eye contact nearly as much. There are live shows, karaoke and country dancing (for those of you who didn’t get enough during the rodeo), but the most exciting part of the day has to be the wet-underwear/wet-T-shirt contest held in the Faces tent.

For those of you who have never had the voyeuristic pleasure, lusty young men and busty young ladies give the audience a five-second introduction (“I’m an undergrad student at UC Davis! I like biking, meditation and that really hot kid from The O.C.!”) and then stand in an inflatable SpongeBob pool and have water poured down their fronts. Each contestant does a little dancing, everyone does a lot of whooping and whistling, and then the audience votes by applause for whoever’s stuff bounced best. The prizes are lame—I think the winner gets a beer—but bragging rights among your friends and getting dried off by another hottie backstage are what you’re in it for anyway, right?

Queer things to do


• Lambda Freedom Fair; Saturday, June 5, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Southside Park, Eighth and T streets; admission $7 (children 12 and under are free), with all proceeds benefiting the Sacramento Lambda Community Center; www.lambdasac.org.

• Queer therapy, at hair salons all over Sacramento (I’m still trying to figure out why Mom thinks this is just a phase); best bet is J’s Beauty at 2300 J Street; call (916) 444-2007 and ask for Gustavo (if you don’t, he puts generic product in my hair—help a brother out).


• Second Saturday Art Walk; second Saturday of the month, every month, with summer dates of June 12, July 10, August 14 and September 10; all over Sacramento; free admission, food and drinks.

• The Lord of the Rings trilogy (the most gay homosexual movie trilogy ever made also has some of the coolest set decorations and castles you’ve ever seen); rent the DVDs at Blockbuster, or just wait for the 13-hour Elvish marathon you know the Crest is going to screen someday.


• Sierra Stampede Festival & Gay Rodeo; July 23-24; Central Park Horse Arena, Rio Linda; www.sierrastampede.org.

• Gay theater (Can’t be queer without a couple of show tunes, and the theaters are air-conditioned!), such as The Most Fabulous Story Ever Told, by Paul Rudnick; June 18-July 3; www.lambdaplayers.com.


• Sacramento Valley Leathermen’s pancake breakfasts; first Sunday of the month, every month, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., with summer dates of June 6, July 4, August 8 and September 5; Faces Nightclub, 20th and K streets; $5 donation benefits local HIV/AIDS charities.

• River City Volleyball’s gay volleyball league (It’s the most exciting court action since they decriminalized sodomy! And topless, sweaty men diving for balls do work up quite an appetite) “Some Like It Hot” volleyball tournament; Saturday and Sunday, September 4-5.


• The Rainbow Festival’s wet-underwear/wet-T-shirt contest, September 3-5, Midtown Sacramento, www.rainbowfestival.com.

• Dress-up theme nights at The Bolt (By the end of summer, you’ll have been—or done—all of the Village People!), 2560 Boxwood Street, (916) 649-8420, www.theboltbar.com.