The second and third weekends of April, I had non-leather weekend events which I was intimately involved in. Although not title-related, they still show on my title event calendar, and one of the things that was prominent in my contest application was wanting to build bridge between leather and the country-western dance and bear communities.
This was the 5th year for Rain Country Dance Association’s Emerald City Hoedown. We’ve gone from an event with a bar dance night, a few dance workshops at two sites a few blocks apart, and a big dance at a local ethnic community hall, to our current one with three days of workshops, three dance nights, and dancers coming in from as far away as Hawaii, Texas, and New Jersey. Next year will be even bigger (as much as three times as big!), as we will be hosting the 20th annual convention of the International Association of Gay/Lesbian Country Western Dance Clubs (an organization I have been heavily involved with for the past 18 years, and this upcoming convention is something I have been aiming at for most of that time).
I was co-chair of the event this year, and we figure that there was a good 400 hours of work involved from the six of us on the committee, when you add everything up over the past year. In addition to organizational duties, I also ran all the pre-event registration, set up and managed the sound systems, provided music for many of the workshops, taught workshops on Two-Step, Shuffle, and Line Dance Styling (titled “You’re Not Doing That Gay Enough!”), did our Saturday night announcements, and ran the small dance competitions (a line dance contest and a “Pat & Chris” (random partner) Two-Step contest).
One thing that I have been able to bring to our hoedown from the leather side of things, and to the IAGLCWDC conventions as well, is boot care. Bootblacking has exploded in the leather community in recent years, but it is still almost unknown on the country dance scene. We have had bootblack at at least the last four of our events, and in fact many of the Northwest Community Bootblack titleholders (Kelley, Henry, Scout, Ruin) do at least some two-stepping, so it hasn’t been a hard sell to get them here. This year, Ruin blacked for us on Friday night and on Saturday afternoon.
As well, Ruin is a former ballroom and Latin dance competitor, so I got her to teach a dance workshop in Foxtrot during the hoedown. She is already asking about next year, and might do a forum (non-dancing workshop) on boot care for dancers, as well.
Spring Thaw is the Northwest Bears’ annual event, this being the 18th year and my second year on the committee. (For a couple months, myself and Pete were the entire committee.) Knowing how booked I was with the Emerald City Hoedown, I refrained from doing anything but the pre-event registration (where I could heavily leverage what I did with the hoedown) and the Friday and Saturday after hours (where I teamed up with current Mr. Northwest Cub Jeffrey; I was last year’s Mr. Northwest Cub).
(This has been one of the biggest challenges of my title year, and frankly, my leather life for the past few years: learning how to say no, or at least how to say “I can’t do that also”. With broad skills comes broad responsibility to use them, but take on too much and something has to give — sometimes you fail to do something, and sometimes you half kill yourself trying. Neither is good.)
Spring Thaw has a lot of good momentum from running for years, but it has been something of a strain to put it together the last couple years, and this one especially. The club needs better engagement and support from the board and the membership early in the process to make things roll more easily. Pete and I basically came to an ultimatum point a few months out, where we needed committee members and planning involvement or it wasn’t going to happen. We got that, but we came to another point a couple months later where we tossed out the planned “theme” for the weekend because none of our events were going to make use of it. (The only thing worse that not having a theme to build on is having a good one and not building on it. Like Spring Thaw failed to do last year, with an Wizard of Oz tagline and zero Oz content.)
Since Pete was also on the committee for the hoedown, we have both had an up-close view of the difference between the two events in terms of pre-planning, budget, committee engagement, and so forth. The Hoedown was down a bit in numbers from last year but we ironed out many previous problems and things ran pretty well. Spring Thaw was similarly down a bit but had a lot more stress in the planning stages.
We’ll be having a post-mortems on both events in the next week. It will be interesting to see how things fall out from those.