Photo by Brian Perlman

It felt like the mass of people had gathered for a sporting event or an outdoor music festival — or even a New Year’s Eve celebration. The countdown started, caught on and spread: “Five! Four! Three! Two! One!” At the stroke of 4:20 p.m. on Saturday, 4/20, cheers erupted. So, too, did a great and grand exhale of marijuana — a collective breath picked up and bandied about by a wind that clocked in at 28 mph at SFO.

No matter. “The day of marijuana,” as one ice cream vendor called 4/20, partied on to the good of all. “If there are more people, there are more sales,” the vendor said in Spanish.

And customers abounded. Coachella T-shirted people stood in long, snaking lines for the bathrooms. The din of conversations blended together with music playing on portable speakers. Dogs’ ears perked up and noses pointed attentively at the odor of food mixed with marijuana. Some friends greeted each other with high fives, and another pair of friends walked along a promenade holding beer bottles in one hand and their cell phones in the other.

“Edibles!” a vendor shouted into the wind as he walked through the crowd.

Groups huddled along the slope of the hills and on the flats trying to smoke weed. “Ah, this lighter doesn’t go,” said one female park-goer as she attempted to light a yellow glass pipe in the biting wind on the top of a hill. But many of the lighters and matches worked just fine.

Nearby, a gust of wind caught a random puff of smoke that appeared several feet wide.

A man wearing a plush cheetah onesie carried what seemed to be a children’s scooter over his shoulder.

The gay rights activist group Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence marched solemnly around the border of the park — drag queens dressed in all-white nun outfits with gaudy makeup and chest hair prominently displayed. The sisters marched (mostly) silently, as is the custom, in observance of their organization’s 40th anniversary. There will be a Hunky Jesus competition on Easter Sunday.

Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence. Photo by Brian Perlman

San Francisco Park Ranger J. Whitted spoke calmly as he sat in his all-terrain vehicle — 4/20 is just another day at work for him. Most of the other park rangers patrolled Golden Gate Park for the officially-sanctioned, and much more massive, 4/20 event.

Whitted said his task today was to protect community members and help them celebrate safely and responsibly. He knows that there will be much marijuana use, and he said he would try to curtail it by writing some warnings, but he’s mainly concerned with the violation of other park rules, such as bringing glass or grills into the park or barbecuing.

He was also concerned that other hard drugs that might be in the mix. “There’s some stuff that could be mixed with fentanyl. Fentanyl has been a very bad drug that people have been ingesting, and in some cases, dying from it,” he said, acknowledging that there haven’t been any recent fentanyl incidents in this park that he can recall. “This year has been good, so I can’t complain,” he said.

Downhill, San Francisco State University students walked through the crowd selling lumpia, and another student sat on a park bench selling Cheetos with hot sauce. They were raising money for their student organization, Devoted Women for Change.

One of the students said that their organization’s mission is “to empower women, allowing women of all cultures to be welcome with us.”

It was Dolores Park as it often is, except that on 4/20 especially, the high revelers puffed, smoked, vaped, and hit bongs on into the late afternoon and evening.

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