International Bear Rendezvous

The Bears of San Francisco wish to thank all those in the Bear Community who have supported us throughout the seventeen years we have produced the International Bear Rendezvous. Since the first Rendezvous in 1994, net proceeds have resulted in donations totaling over $500,000 to many non-profit organizations. It is with great regret that we bring this successful bear run event to a conclusion.

The Bears of San Francisco would like to explain to everyone the reasons behind the decision to make IBR 2011 the last IBR. This decision was not made lightly or overnight. The current board of directors, as well as the Emeritus Committee, met and discussed current trends happening within the club and the community before coming to this decision. The Emeritus Committee is an advisory board of former BOSF presidents and vice-presidents established to discuss the current state and future of IBR and BOSF. Here are the facts that led to the recommendation to end International Bear Rendezvous.

  • 1. It has become prohibitively expensive to conduct the event. Finding a hotel with the necessary space, in a good location, and a price we can afford is virtually impossible in San Francisco. We have cut every expense we reasonably could (entertainment, transportation, etc.), and still have a higher registration fee and room rate than virtually every other event in the US.

  • 2. IBR 2010 was a financial bust. Our registration was considerably lower than it has been in years past. This meant the event did not meet the room-night commitment for the hotel. Even with some concessions from the hotel, we had to tap into all of the reserves at the organization’s disposal in order to meet our financial commitments and have at least a minimal donation for the beneficiaries.

  • 3. Our usual mechanisms for replenishing the reserve funding (Pride, Dore, etc) were also insufficient this year. Overall, the SF Pride event was mismanaged and as a result lost over $100,000. The SF Pride Committee was not able to fulfill the obligations to the beverage partners, including BOSF. Dore Alley was fine, but did not make up for the shortfall from SF Pride. Lazy Bear was cancelled this year, so BOSF was not able to volunteer and raise some funding at that event. Due to many circumstances, club members did not see fit to provide volunteer support for both Folsom AND Castro Street Fairs. As a result, Folsom Street Fair was skipped, and the focus was placed on the Castro Street Fair, which has been more lucrative for several years. Unfortunately, it rained during the Castro Street Fair, reducing the turnout and the amount raised by BOSF. To put it simply, the reserves were not replenished.

  • 4. The board is burnt out. Even the efforts to recruit new leadership have been met with a very lackluster response. The old guard has; moved away, passed away, or simply does not have the stamina to continue organizing and ensuring the smooth production of large events anymore.

  • 5. With the trends in social organizing continuing to move toward more of an internet base, there has not been much volunteer support from the local bear community for either IBR or BOSF. Since the event has been so successful in the past, many have been perfectly happy to enjoy the "fresh meat" every year for the event. This has not translated into more help for the event, but a willingness on the part of many, to let others continue doing the work. This may be a harsh comment, but it is a very reasonable interpretation of what has been seen and commented upon by many different individuals, both within and without BOSF.

  • 6. Enough bear events have come into existence around the country in the past few years that people often do not feel the need to spend $1,000, or more, in travel and hotel expenses to come to IBR when they can go somewhere closer and less expensive. In fact, many people do not feel the need to attend bear events at all, and meet people through online sources rather than social functions and events.

  • 7. Some event producers have felt it unnecessary and unimportant to partner with BOSF for IBR’s primarily dances (but not CastroBear Productions (Harry), Bearacudda, and Phattest Event and other long term vendor partners who have sponsored or donated to the IBR beneficiaries, of course) and try to compete with IBR instead. This has drained locals and even out-of-town attendees away from the main IBR sponsored events, with no particular benefit to the original philanthropic reasons behind these fund-raising events. In fact, many potential IBR attendees only see the outside events, and no longer feel a need to register for IBR itself. One reason we are sponsoring the dances at the hotel this year is to try to re-capture some of this interest, and income, to cover expenses and to have a reasonable amount of donations for the chosen beneficiaries.

  • 8. The deal for the event needed to be signed for 2012. Because of the fiscal uncertainty, the committee was unwilling to sign the documents. If the committee had signed the documents for 2012, and the event had to be cancelled, it would have cost almost $200,000 in cancellation fees. A new venue would involve a two-year commitment, potentially compounding this dilemma. An example of the reason for the committee’s unwillingness to sign included the low registration at the end of November for 2011. At six weeks of open registration, there were fewer people registered for IBR 2011 than used to register by the end of week two.

  • This has been a thorough process, painful in both the deliberation and the impact to the bear community. IBR has been filled with many people who have brought inspiration to the bear community and movement throughout the world. Ending the event may signal the need for changes in how the community operates, but it does not end the camaraderie and the accomplishments of so many of the people who have been involved over the years. With all of this in mind, the Committee decided to finish IBR on a high note and not allow it to become a shadow of itself. Even as this is the last year for IBR, there will be other events and opportunities for people who want to be involved to continue to be involved. This will be a loss for the community, but it will also serve as a signal that events should evolve and change just as the community changes. The idea of IBR – the bonds of fellowship, community and philanthropy will continue, while the shape changes.