CLAW 17 rocks Cleveland

(Above) Karaoke in the Main Atrium of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. (Photos by Brett Peugh)

CLEVELAND – With more than 2,000 attendees, 1,000 volunteer shifts filled, and 104 educational and skills workshops, CLAW 17 was the largest to date. The annual event filled The Westin, DoubleTree and Hampton hotels in downtown Cleveland.

Thursday started with a CLAW private party at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame where attendees could tour the exhibits and perform karaoke on the stage in the main atrium. Parties started later at The Leather Stallion, Mean Bull and FLEX.

An education workshop started off the next morning with a guided meditation on the leather value of integrity. While a variety of the 104 skills and education workshops went on throughout the day, local BDSM play space The Academy hosted a private play space and FLEX hosted a Naked Bear Pool party, both for men only. The Parade of Colors started off the night time festivities and lead in the leather community Circle of Life Walk to remember those that had passed in the last year. Parties both within the Westin and at the other hotels filled many people’s dance cards for the rest of the night.

Vendor Mart Strip Bingo and the drag queen with the largest hair in the world.

The in-room pup and boy Coffee Service once again encouraged persons to slowly crawl to the workshops, Vendor Mart, or play space depending on when you were served on Saturday. Many social opportunities and another FLEX male-only pool party in the afternoon provided a ramp up for many to the International Lather Family Dinner that evening.

Shannon and Eli received the Volunteer of the Year awards from CLAW while Tina received the CLAW Corner Stone Award. It was announced that CLAW 18 will also be held at the Westin and that you can book your hotel reservations now. As always, there were more parties after the dinner where shenanigans could be engaged in.

Sunday started too early for many, even with the coffee service. A few social activities and workshops slowly ramped people up to attend the Leather Hall of Fame Brunch where MC Hamburg, Peter Fiske and Dirk Dehner were inducted in the LHOF. The opening of the play space along with a few meetings and panels led up to the Kinky Cabaret and Last Call retro Dance Party at night to close out the weekend for many.

Tyesha Best’s ‘What POC Leatherfolk Have Done For Our Communities’ educational workshop.

Many non-gay males say that they will not attend CLAW because they feel that they will not fill in, that it is not for them or that there is nothing for them there to do. Having been there twice, Anna and I can say that aside from a few side eyes from some fossils that it has not happened to us. We attended the workshops throughout both days, attended events at night like the Rubber Social Hour, Bootblack Summit, Vendor Mart and Strip Bingo in addition to our volunteering and some of the late night parties. We never felt left out that we could not attend the male only workshops (eight others at the same time to choose from), play space (we had a room) or pool parties (we could organize an inclusive one ourselves) because we always had something to do if we wanted to.

(Editor’s note: We are fully aware of the issues of assault and consent at this year’s CLAW. We will be covering those issues in another article.)