Both Bear weekend events report success, planning next year

By : AnitaHeading
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For 19 years, there’s been one game in town when it comes to Bear weekend events in Orlando. Bear Bust, organized by Bears of Central Florida (BoCF), was the original and only run, until earlier this year when the group announced Bear Bust 2009 would move from downtown Orlando to the Clarion Resort in Kissimmee.

The move sparked a split and a group of long-disgruntled members left to form Bears, Cubs, Chubbies and Chasers, BC3 for short. BC3 decided to host a Bear event on the same  Oct. 16 weekend at the Parliament House, forcing many local and visiting bears to choose which to attend.

Despite the schism, leadership from each group said their respective event was a success.

Tim Limbauch, BOCF president, said about 600 people bought run packages or a day/night pass. He said the group already signed a contract with the Clarion for the same weekend next year.

“It was a very big success this year with the board, the committee and all the attendees,” he said. “The club truly believes this change of venue was the right move.”

Randy Stephens, BC3 Weekend chairman, said his group, too, plans an event during the same weekend and at the same location for 2010. He estimates there was a 50/50 split between locals and out-of-towners.

“We’re going to expand it, no doubt about it,” Stephens said. “[Attendance] showed us there is a need for [a bear event] to stay in the downtown Orlando area, and a lot of locals thanked us for that.”

Michael Varvel traveled from Gainesville to attend Bear Bust. He said he’s attended for about five years and the 2009 event was the best one to date.

“They had really good entertainment that was specific to the bear community,” he said. Bear Bust attendees purchased passes ranging from $30 – $110, while the BC3 weekend events were free, with the exception of a $10 admission price to see comedian Bruce Vilanch perform.

BearsBartending_705978839.jpgBC3 organizers cited cost as a reason for the split, saying Bear Bust organizers were not thinking of locals who may be suffering financially. Dave Lawrence, who has been going to Bear Bust since the early 90s, only attended the BC3 Weekend Full Moon Reunion Party on Friday night.

“It was a great party where I saw people I haven’t seen in 10 or 11 years, and I hope they’re doing it again next year,” he said.

Julian Wilson traveled from Ontario to attend, and he decided to check out both events.

“To me, it looked like two brothers who had grown up together and loved each other but had a fight and went off to do their own thing,” he said. “Next year, I’m going straight to Parliament House.”

Both events raised money for charity. Through raffle tickets and sale of autographed photos of Vilanch, BC3 Weekend raised more than $1,000 for Hope & Help.

Limbauch said Clarion will donate 10% of Bear Bust food and drink sales to be split between Hope & Help and The Center, but they won’t get those total figures from the Clarion until next month.

See more photos from both Bear weekend events!

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