Bears from around the state and surrounding areas will be pitching tents, starting campfires, and getting down and dirty at the annual Bear Jamboree on July 29-31. The annual camp-out is a tradition for the Utah Bears, a social and service group of gay and bisexual men, and it attracts more than 80 men each year.
The traditional definition of a bear in the gay community is a man that is burly, hairy and/or larger than an average man. However, that definition is changing and any male from age 21 and up is invited to attend the camp-out in McCammon, Idaho, said Kirk Birkle, the president of the Utah Bears.
The three-day event will attract men of all shapes, sizes and social statuses, he said.
“We get chasers, we get bears, we get a little bit of everything,” Birkle said. “We’ve got one guy who is about 5 feet 5 inches tall and weighs about 100 pounds. And another who’s more than 6 feet tall and weighs about 350.”
The event will include movie nights on a large projector, a tent with some refreshments and other activities. The Bear Jamboree is $50 a person which includes all the activities and fee for the campsite. The site is outside McCammon, Idaho, which is a short two-hour drive from Salt Lake City. It is well secluded and privately owned, so there’s plenty of privacy for attendees, Birkle said.
In its eighth year, the camp out has generated a reputation of being one of the largest bear events in the area and it attracts people from all around the state and from Idaho and Colorado.
“It’s really a chance to socialize and just have a good time,” Birkle said. “Aside from all the activities we’ll have, there’s going to be a lot of guys to hang out with and have a good time.”
The event is not exclusive to men who identify as bears, or even their admirers, Birkle said. It is open to all men, masculine, feminine, rich and poor.
“We’re really starting to see a more diverse group of people join our group,” he said. “We’ve got people from all social and economic backgrounds.”
The bears meet weekly for coffee and have a regular attendance of around 30 people. After coffee, the group meets for dinner at a local restaurant. With more than 130 participating members, it is one of the largest gay social and service groups in the region.
“When we have new members come to the activities, we always try to welcome them and make sure they know they have a friend because it can be intimidating going into a group like that,” Birkle said.
For more information about the camp-out and other Utah Bear activities, go to UtahBears.com or find them on Facebook at Utah Bears, Inc.