The San Francisco-born bear-centric Bearracuda party launches at the Bunkhouse this weekend, becoming the first LGBT event at the beloved Downtown music venue. But where will bears and bear admirers go afterwards? Enter local social group Bears Las Vegas, which has been hosting bear gatherings all across the Valley for more than three years now.
“There are a lot of people who don’t fit into a particular stereotype,” says Bears Las Vegas president Jack Francione, mentioning how the organization fosters a casual, non-judgmental environment for bears and bear admirers. While many might think the term “bear” refers to a certain body type, Francione considers it more of a “state of mind." “We can be tough, we can be hairy, we can be large, we can be nerdy, or none of those things, or all of them” reads the Bears Las Vegas website, which says the most important part of being a bear is to support others to “feel good in their own skin.”
“[It’s] a place of inclusiveness, for anyone to join,” says Francione, and tonight those interested can do just that, as the organization puts on its monthly Bear Bar party at country-western gay bar Charlie’s Las Vegas.
The event is just one on Bears Las Vegas’ substantial social calendar, which includes monthly parties at area gay bars and social events like movie screenings, dinners and camping trips such as last month’s Bears Camp Zion trek in Southern Utah. “There’s always something for somebody to come out [to],” says Francione. The group maintains three monthly bar events, including Bear Bar (every Second Friday) at Charlie’s Las Vegas, UnderBear (every fourth Friday) at Flex Cocktail Lounge and GROWL (every fifth Sunday) at Fun Hog Ranch. The parties consistently feature the organization's "famous" $1 Gummy Bear shots and, sometimes, bear go-go dancers.
While the organization has yet to become an official nonprofit—Francione says paperwork was recently submitted to the IRS and State of Nevada to achieve that status—Bears Las Vegas also acts as a fundraising agent for the Sin Sity Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, a local nonprofit dedicated to providing much-needed medication to HIV/AIDS patients across the Vegas Valley.
Bears Las Vegas is always open to new event suggestions and other ideas, and its board meets publicly at the Gay and Lesbian Community Center of Southern Nevada every second Friday of the month. For more information, visit bearslasvegas.ning.com.