Thousands of Bears Will be Loose In NYC for Urban Bear
This weekend in New York City thousands of bears will be loose in the streets. No, not the woodland creatures but rather that particular group of gay men who embrace their big bellies and body hair and some of whom will be faced with the fashion dilemma of whether to accessorize their beard with a blonde wig or knee-high leather boots. Fuck it, why not wear both?
Welcome to Urban Bear.
“I’m a bear and I’ve always been a lover of bears,” says Robert Valin creator of Urban Bear. ”In 2006 I was out at Lazy Bear outside of San Francisco, and I was just so amazed by the community there. It was one of the biggest bear events I had been to outside of Provincetown Bear Week and I remember being there with a bunch of my New York friends thinking, “Why don’t we have something like this in New York?”. I came back after that and I just thought someone’s got to start it and it might as well be me.”
Part of the reason Valin wanted to create this event in New York was because social media and hookup apps were beginning to hurt nightlife in the city. You don’t need to go out and spend the night bar hopping searching for your dream power bottom when you’ve got an app telling you they’re just three gloryholes away. He wanted to create something to bring the grizzly daddies and furry chubs together in celebration of their culture. Says Valin, “New York- post Guiliani- was really changing, it was starting to get cleaned up and I wanted to keep a little of the sex and grit and grime. What better group of people to do this with than the bears?”
The first event was just Valin and his friends hanging out in Central Park playing with frisbees and hula hoops. This year marks the 10th anniversary and they’ve gone from an afternoon of throwing frisbees to a four-day event including a sunset disco cruise on The Hudson River and culminating in a massive street fair in the meatpacking district (of course). “For me the biggest highlight every year is the street fair. It’s our version of Folsom East but certainly on a smaller scale.”
It all start Thursday with the ‘Stache Bash opening night party and continues all weekend long with events like the Underbear Party and the Grizzly Guzzler Beer Blast among others before culminating with the street fair. This year a portion of the proceeds from the street fair will go to the Callen Lorde Community Health Center which provides healthcare for New York’s LGBTQ community.
While bears are the stars of the show this event welcomes everyone from twinks to twunks from daddies to dykes. Says Valin,” I’m looking forward to it being an even bigger celebration where there’s even more diversity because the bear community has, no pun intended, expanded over the years and it’s nice to see people from all walks of life coming out to celebrate our community.”