CLEVELAND – After hearing about Cleveland Leather Awareness Weekend, I finally made it to the event without a contest. And I didn’t really miss there not being a contest.
Now in its eleventh year, for those not familiar with it (there has to be a few) CLAW is an annual weekend of workshops and festivities in downtown Cleveland. There are also shows, auctions and your regular leather run socializing. In recent years, it’s become something of a preview of IML with many titleholders headed to that contest making an appearance and some of the IML judges aiming for a relaxing weekend with the leather tribe.
It is also a fundraising weekend. Over the past decade, CLAW has donated thousands to various charities both nationally and in Ohio. As of this writing, the total for the entire weekend is still being tallied. However, $1,490 was raised for breat cancer research at the leather burlesque bingo hosted by Lady Justice (“Anyone but Komen,” she said.) and more than $500 being raised for HIV/AIDS by the attending bootblacks.
The weekend is also when people are inducted into the Leather Hall of Fame. Now entering its fourth year, the LHOF honors those who have had a major influence in the development of the modern leather community. The Chicago Den was one of the businesses that gave its support to the LHOF, helping with the video presentation for this year. This year’s inductees were artist and author Sam Steward (aka Phil Andros), photographer Irving Klaw and author and psychotherapist Guy Baldwin.
Other than a typical Chicagoan’s urge to say “What a cute little skyline” about Cleveland’s downtown, the city itself was very enjoyable. And the weekend was a lot of fun. I was unable to attend many of the workshops because of volunteering and helping out with the LHOF. However, the crowd there was great. I was able to catch up with friends that I hadn’t seen in literally years and finally met with people I’ve seen and heard about. And by the way, if you ever get a chance to hear some of Vern Stewart’s stories, take it. The man is hilarious and my chance to talk to him was definitely one of the high points of the weekend. Another high point, for me at least, was being able to see singer Colton Ford live.
The weekend wasn’t completely perfect. The event is completely volunteer-run. Which is great, but the volunteers weren’t always given full information and most decisions had to be kicked upstairs. That often led to confusion and a bit of frustration from attendees. That was a complaint I’d heard from more than one person. There have also been some staff changes that changed many of the big events such as the show and and dances. Friends said they were disappointed in the changes made from the previous year and some of the shows I attended simply weren’t that good. There was a definite lack of energy from the audience, sound quality from the speakers was less than stellar and pacing was off.
Overall, it was a very enjoyable weekend. The organizational issues do need to be addressed. The event has grown (two full downtown hotels) to the point where there does need to be delegation of authority and decision making. An event of this size becomes too unweildly to do it any other way. Having said that, I would love to go back next yearThe energy was good, and I had a lot of fun when I wasn’t working.
I got a ton of photos from the event. Enjoy the eye candy and keep an eye out for some of our video footage from the weekend.