San Francisco is known for its fairs and festivals. But there is one local event –- the oldest of its kind -– that truly defines this city.
The 101st Bay to Breakers race is on Sunday, friends. And this year, the route-bordering neighborhoods are ready.
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"I think we have just every Porta-Potty in California," North Panhandle Neighborhood Association board member Jarie Bolander told The Huffington Post. "We have route barriers and a neighborhood ambassador program with volunteers who will go out into the race and help people."
Bolander is a member of the District 5 Neighborhood Action Committee, a group that stemmed from route residents who were fed up with the steady stream of broken glass and urine that punctuated years past.
Though last year's event was widely seen as safe and successful, Bay to Breakers hasn't been a joyride for everyone. In 2009, following a particularly rowdy B2B, the event's bad reputation and negative impact on the city ignited a firestorm in District Five, prompting ING, the event's longtime sponsor, to pull out.
"There had been a decline for several years, but in 2009 it just descended into chaos with really nasty, aggressive behavior going on everywhere," said Bolander. "The next day –- literally the next day –- all of the District Five neighborhood associations were inundated with complaints from residents. I mean, it was pitchforks and torches out there."
So in 2010, a neighborhood task force was formed. The event saw a massive overhaul that included an increase in public resources (including bathrooms), more security and event management and an aggressive crackdown on alcohol and floats.
"We want to make sure that Bay to Breakers is fun for everyone," said San Francisco Police Department Sgt. Daryl Fong to HuffPost. "So we initiated a two-prong approach of public education and enforcement. Our priority is to prevent criminal conduct including public urination and intoxication, while providing a safe and successful event."
But many city residents are less than thrilled about the new guidelines, especially those banning floats, which are widely seen as the most creative aspect of the event.
"I think the police crackdown on Bay to Breakers is antithetical to the character of San Francisco," said race participant Jeff Schneider to HuffPost. "Part of what makes this city remarkable is its free-spirited, live-and-let-live attitude. It's sad that the police have chosen to quash the festive elements of this unique event."
But neighborhood groups say that the recent enforcement is the best way to keep Bay to Breakers running.
"This event is absolutely iconic," said Bolander. "It showcases the uniqueness and resiliency of San Francisco. But it should be something that everyone can enjoy."
Love it or hate it, B2B is coming and you'd better get ready. To prepare, check out our ultimate guide to Bay to Breakers, and add your own photos to our slideshow of B2B favorites below. Sunday funday, everyone!
Bay to Breakers Ultimate Survival Guide
Water. And lots of it.
Cash. Cash serves two main purposes at Bay to Breakers: getting home at the end of the day (read: noon) and bribing local businesses to let you use their restrooms.
Snacks (or at least breakfast). B2B revelers go from zero to hangry in approximately 2.2 miles.
A fully charged phone. Not that any of your phone calls will get through with six million other people trying to make phone calls, but when you've lost your entire party and it's 3 p.m., you will be thankful.
A flag. It's easy to lose your friends. ("Excuse me? Did you see six smurfs run by in the past few minutes?") But who can find anyone in a sea of 100,000 people? Unless of course, you have a flag.
A clever booze disguise. Here at HuffPost SF would never condone drinking at an alcohol-free event. But if you must…you'll need a disguise. We've seen everything from Camelpacks to microphones and snuffleupaguses.
Sunscreen. We know it's overcast and we know it's 8 a.m. But somehow we always get sunburned.
Comfortable Shoes: Those sneakers may not go with your diva costume. But neither does a broken ankle.
An Exit Strategy. Above all else, you will need an exit strategy. Have a friend in the Panhandle? Lay low until 4 p.m. Have a subscription to Uber? Even better. Because there is nothing worse than being stuck in Golden Gate Park in a leotard, and it's not the best idea to follow your new friends home. (Never go with a hippie to a second location.)
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