For at least one day, the Mission District will return Saturday to its former dyke glory when the 17th annual Dyke March kicks off in Dolores Park at 3 p.m. attracting lesbians from across the Bay Area to a place that once served as a lesbian stronghold in the 1980s and early 1990s.

“One of the most exiting things is marching across the Mission. The response of the people who live here – everyone cheering us on,” said the event organizer Happy Hyder “The Mission has always been open to everyone.”

Valencia Street during the 80s and early 90s was known as a lesbian hangout. The Artemist, a women’s-only café, operated where Beretta’s now stands. The Osento bathhouse for women, was at 955 Valencia and the Dyke bar Amelia’s is now the Elbo Room.

On 21st and Valencia Women’s Craft West operated next to a lesbian bookstore co-operative, the Old Wives’ Tales, which is now Ibarra Brothers Printing.

“Its always felt safe here,” said Hyder who lived nearby on Lynda Street from 1981 to 1992.

The Massachusetts native said finding her place in the Mission during the years when it was heavily gay a “happy coincidence.”

Nowadays, she added, “Valencia is so much different now with all the gentrification.” Many women moved on to Oakand, where Mission Loc@l’s sister site has written about the community there.

Even the new Valencia Street, however, shows signs of excitement as pride becomes more imminent. A giant rainbow flag hangs down an apartment building on 18th street and Valencia and City Art Gallery is having a Queer exhibit.

And, a few blocks east at 2141 Mission St., Bolerium Books remains as the store with one of the largest collection of old gay books. And Charanga, owned by Gabriela Salas, is one of the lesbian-owned establishments to survive the exodus. See Mission Loc@l’s print out map for place to eat and shop on Mission St.

Richard Dodds, an artist exhibiting at the arts cooperative said, “Our hope is that with pride coming up people can take a little queer back home.”

Meanwhile at Dolores Park, Ramona Tomkins from Oakland said she is more exited about the Dyke March than the pride parade on Sunday.

“It {dyke march}is like the non-commercial pride festival,” she said.” It is more grassroots.”

The Dyke march theme for this year is Dyke rights= Human Rights/Human Rights=Dyke Rights.

“No matter what the theme is, it’s always about social justice,” Hyder said.

Elana Dykewomon, an event organizer and author agreed. “We want them to listen and be inspired,” she said.

The event in Dolores includes an eclectic line-up of performers and speakers ranging from Arab-hip-hop artists to presentations by the organizers.

The march begins at 7 p.m. at 18th and Dolores and heads to Valencia turns north on Valencia to 16th Street and ends at Market for a Pink Saturday street party.

“We ask men not to march and stay on the sidelines,” Hyder said.

Women with special needs will be shuttled in a cable car in front of the march or be taken to a special viewing area.

“The goal is that any lesbian who wants to take part in it can,” said event organizer, Susan Levinkind. “We want to make it so that there are no barriers.”