Get Your Bear On
SYDNEY: This year’s Bear Essentials will feature some of the best events from the festival’s 17-year history. Lachlan Bennett reports.
Running parallel to Mardi Gras is a festival that sees bears from across Australia and overseas gather in Sydney to celebrate one of the biggest bear pride festivals in the southern hemisphere – Bear Essentials.
“The Bear Essentials Festival is about enjoying yourself for who you are,” says John Carayannis, president of the Harbour City Bear, the group organising the event. “It’s about getting together and participating in the community, and you can expect to have a lot of fun as well as meet some great people.”
The Bear Essentials festival was first held in 1996 and consists of a broad range of social events ranging from pool parties to video gaming nights.
It’s all-inclusive event that welcomes people regardless their background and whether they’re a bear, an admirer or just curious.
“You can go to any event the bears put on and someone is going to come up to you and say hi and speak to you,” Carayannis adds. “The group doesn’t care about what you look like or what you’re wearing as everyone there is there to have a good time.”
A “warm, friendly crowd” is the one thing people can expect at all events, says HCB vice president Marcus Pastorelli.
“Bears are known for being a friendly mob and during Bear Essentials there is no exception to this rule. Everyone is out to have a great time and celebrate together. Very little attitude and just lots of fun.”
Bear Essentials runs from February 20 to March 3 and will fly under the theme ‘Get Your Bear On’.
Channelling a ‘back to basics’ approach, the 2013 theme will see the best events from the past 17 years revived for what organisers dub “a festival of highlights”.
But the past 17 years of Bear Essentials could not have been possible without the support and dedication of volunteers and the broader bear community.
“The Harbour City Bears has two dedicated committees working to make this festival happen as well as a small army of volunteers. But we wouldn’t be able to do any of it without the support of our members and the party-goers who come,” Pastorelli says.
“Supporting our parties means we can afford to put on festivals like this, and we’d like to thank everyone who supports us throughout the year.”
Greet & Grope
February 20, Gingers, Oxford Hotel
Bear Essentials kicks off with a good old fashioned mixer. Party with the locals and meet all those who have travelled to Sydney for the festival. Hosted by Barry ‘Bear’ Taylor with DJ Frankie Shin.
February 22, Cook and Phillip Park Pool
Don your Speedos for a raunchy pool party that’ll see bears and otters alike strip down for a swim. The event features a set by DJ Scottie Lupton and a BBQ hosted by the boys from the Sydney Rangers Football Club.
February 26, Oxford Hotel
Whether you’re a gamer, or just like being around nimble gaming fingers, this event is for you. Play on the big screen and hang out with new friends over two levels of the Oxford Hotel.
Wednesday 27, Oxford Art Factory
Held at the height of the festival, this hot event will see hundreds of bears descend on the dance floor for a wild night of partying. Pumping out the tunes will be DJs Matt Effect, Vinny Vero, Kam Shafaati, Frankie Shin, Gerard Frank Long and Ben Drayton.
Pre Parade Get Together
March 2, Lord Roberts Hotel
Have a drink and celebrate with the bears as they get ready to march loud and proud in the Mardi Gras Parade. Remember anyone can march with the bears for only $20. Includes food and a souvenir t-shirt.
Bear Essentials 17, February 20 – March 3. For the full program, go to: www.bearessentials.com.au