Den Talk: GLLA, A Homecoming.

Bootblacks hard at work. (Photo by Master Link)

Bootblacks hard at work.
(Photo by Master Link)

INDIANAPOLIS, IN – When one attends a Leather Title Contest there are certain words or phrases you expect to hear multiple times. Words like Leather, Contest, Title, Speech, Interview, & Pop Question, are just some of the words that come to mind. So when the word “Home” became the word I heard most often on everyone’s lips, I realized that I had to write about it.

Last year was my first GLLA Weekend. Before that I had only attended one contest and though it was International Mr. Leather, one of the largest contests in the United States, something about GLLA was different. At the time I personally though that it felt like home. There were so many good friends from both home and abroad in attendance that it just couldn’t feel any other way to me.

Den Talk is an occasional column by GLD staff reporters.

Den Talk is an occasional column by GLD staff reporters.

Since my first GLLA I have focused much of my effort in covering events for the Great Lakes Den. I have attended numerous events & contests and while I have enjoyed them all, none had the same feeling of that first GLLA. When I packed the car this year in preparation of my four and a half hour drive to the hotel venue, I wondered what this year would be like. I had come to the conclusion that my feelings about my first GLLA event were just that first time excitement and wondered how my second year attending would be different.

I was pleasantly surprised that this year was even better.

GLLA Contestants (Photo by Master Link)

GLLA Contestants
(Photo by Master Link)

This year I was able to stay at the host hotel rather than the overflow, that allowed me to immerse myself in everything that is Leather. Unfortunately the elevator didn’t work most of the weekend but for me that was a blessing in disguise. Because of that I found myself helping friends I haven’t seen in three months to a year with their luggage because you can’t pack light for a weekend at GLLA. Helping in such away afforded me conversation time that may not have been afforded in the rest of what is always a busy weekend.

Another thing that was different this year is the returning class of Titleholders who were at GLLA to step down. I was lucky enough to get to know a few of these people very well over the past year and became good friends. Getting to see them and to see their step down speech was emotional. I was lucky enough to get to watch how hard they worked to represent the Great Lakes Community over the year both in person and via social media. I have to say, this years class has big shoes to fill.

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Michigan Leather slave 2014, niki & Great Lakes Bootblack 2014, Marta Having fun showing off some leg at GLLA. (Photo by Sir Travis)

Also this year not only did my state of Michigan have representation but my home town of Grand Rapids was represented in the Master/slave contest by Michigan Master & slave 2014, Sir Travis & niki. I personally got to watch this couples Leather Journey & Title Run. You really don’t know how much goes into running for a title until someone you are close to decides to run. Then you see how much time, money, & effort those representing your community put into running. I recommend everyone support their State Titleholders. They need the support and they really do appreciate it.

This year was also my first time covering GLLA for the Great Lakes Den. Last year I avoided bothering any of the staff because from my experience as a event coordinator at home, I knew how much they had to do & how much stress they could be under. This year however I had questions that would need to be answered in regard to photography and what information should be made public about the event. I have to say that I was surprised by how helpful and friendly the staff was. I was especially surprised by how approachable and friendly Ms. Kendra & slave garrett were. They were both incredibly helpful and didn’t seem nearly as stressed as some of the coordinators of smaller events have seemed. When I mentioned this after the contest they both gave credit to the amazing staff that is in place.

For those of you who have never attended GLLA let me give you a quick rundown of the event schedule. Thursday afternoon is when registration opens. Thursday evening you have the Titleholder Homecoming (there’s that word again) where you have the oppertunity to meet all the titleholders. Friday starts early with breakfast and then classes all day long followed by a dinner break. Friday evening sees part one of the contest followed by bootblacks, bourbon, & cigars at the Ash Bash. Then its socializing, swimming, and a few adult beverages until the early morning hours. Saturday again starts with breakfast and then sees more classes followed by a provided lunch you get to enjoy during the auction. After the auction there is a break followed by the second part of the Contest. The conclusion of the Contest sees new Titleholders crowned. And then it is time for the victory celebration that includes socializing, swimming, and a few adult beverages. Sunday you have the Brunch with Keynote Speaker followed by late checkout. Bootblacking was provided every day, the Vendor Fair ran everyday, and Dungeon spaces were open every evening.

One of the other reasons I think so many feel that GLLA is like coming home is because of the support of clubs & organizations all over the Great Lakes Region. You may have noticed the breaks I mentioned during the weekend, well those are not just empty times with nothing to do. Those are the times when other fundraising or fun activities take place. These include a Pony/Puppy/Little’s Reception, Geekgasm presented by the Kinkdom, the IMAS Cookout, Tri-States Cocktail Party, Bootblack Ice Cream Social, Bootblack Reception hosted by Indianapolis Bootblack Laboratory, Derby City MAsT Cigar Bourbon Social, Detroit Life Cocktail Party, Michigan Band of Brothers Party, Indianapolis Kink Society Pool Party, & The MAsT Regional Meeting.

I mentioned fundraising and I would be amiss not to mention that GLLA raised almost $10,000 for the Titleholder Travel Fund this year, a new record. Maybe its the generosity of those who attend that make GLLA feel like home. One contestants basket went for an astonishing $1,225 on its own & Geekgasm focused on generating money for the Carter/Johnson Leather Library.

No matter who I spoke with be it contestants, vendors, staff, volunteers, or just attendees they all told me how at home they felt. And then there was the moment during the International Master & slave Titleholders step down speech where they showed a video. The video featured a clip from the International contest. The question asked to Master Michael & slave angie was “What unique or special something do you believe you will bring to the International Master/slave Title if you win” and the answer was “…We will bring Great Lakes with us & the pride in the first Great Lakes International”. I don’t know any better way to call GLLA home than that.

It was also announced this weekend that this event that everyone refers to as “home” will be moving to a new larger venue & a goal for the future is to have attendance be 1,000 strong. That is a lofty goal, but this reporter feels that it is possible in the near future. Those of us who have attended just need to tell those back home what an amazing event GLLA is and invite everyone to come home with us next year.

For those of you looking for a list of those who won or competed at GLLA this year you can find that information in this ARTICLE.

Tickets for GLLA 2015 go on sale October 1st of 2014. You can find out more information at the Official GLLA Webpage. And please take a moment to view the amazing staff that put on these events at this LINK.