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May 6, 2011

CLAW’s weekend of fun and frolic grows into its larger space

Cleveland--Like Godzilla in a motorcycle jacket, the tenth annual Cleveland Leather Awareness Weekend stormed through the North Coast from April 28 to May 1, growing ever larger, threatening to eventually level the city under the sheer weight of its schedule of events.

Held this year for the first time at the Hilton Garden Inn, the new venue provided five rooms for educational workshops, stretching the schedule out to a total of 32 education and skills presentations covering everything from a panel discussion on bareback porn to making one’s own dildo, “Foods as Aphrodisiacs” to “Leather Community History.”

In addition, the vendor mart was able to stretch out in two large areas instead of being crammed into a series of smaller rooms.

At the Leather Dinner, CLAW founder and president Dennis McMahon was honored for his decade of service to the event, as were board member Tina Mackay, left, and convention manager, CLAW secretary and webmaster Donn Wolfe, next to her. The trio, along with CLAW chairman Robert Miller, at right, formed the group’s executive committee this year. McMahon, second from right, received the “Magnum Award,” a glass obelisk--along with an identical copy cast in red rubber by Square Peg Toys at their make-your-own-dildo workshop earlier that day.

Even the BD/SM art show had its own space, which meant that it was able to stay up during the International Leather Family Dinner on Saturday night. In the last couple of years it was sequestered in the back of the previous hotel’s main ballroom and had to be removed to make room for diners. This year’s dinner drew a record crowd of more than 300, but people were still able to comfortably walk between the tables.

CLAW is rare among leather events in that there is no competition for a title, just a large gathering for fun and education. The weekend also raises funds for dozens of groups, including the Cleveland LGBT Center, the AIDS Taskforce of Cleveland and the Leather Archives and Museum in Chicago. In ten years, the event has donated a quarter of a million dollars, including $100,000 from CLAW Nation, a year-round series of parties across the country.

Dennis McMahon, the founder and president of CLAW, was honored at the Leather Dinner for his decade of service to the event, as were board member Tina Mackay and convention manager, CLAW secretary and webmaster Donn Wolfe. The trio, along with CLAW chairman Robert Miller, formed the group’s executive committee this year.

Another change that accompanied the new venue was that all of the larger events were on a single floor, eliminating the wait for the elevator that frustrated some people in earlier years.

The silent auction and second-hand merchandise mart were back in force, as was the Friday night Cleveland Rocks party.

There were also field trips to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, as well as Indians games across Carnegie Avenue, which ended with fireworks that seemed to salute the revelers. Another event was the Black Leather Jacket Tour on board Lolly the Trolley.

A motorcycle poker run on Saturday took people out to the Cuyahoga Valley National Park and a late lunch at Daddy’s in Akron, while those staying behind were treated to a leather cookout in the Boots and Cigars Tent.

On Sunday, the Leather Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony and Brunch saw three new inductees. The first was Bob Milne, who came to New York City in 1950 and became one of the leading organizers of leather parties in the pre-leather bar scene. He was joined by Leonard Burtman, the father of the modern fetish publishing industry. He was at the heart of the heterosexual kink community from the 1950s to the 1980s, producing the first mainstream fetish film, Satan in High Heels.

Finally, the Eulenspiegel Society, founded in 1971, is the oldest and largest BD/SM support and education group in the United States, providing classes, parties and events in New York City two or three times a week.

The celebration ended with Sunday supper at Cadillac Ranch, which was also the site of the Leather Rouge Revue and Dance Party this year.

Given the ever-growing scale of CLAW, by the time CLAW 20 rolls around, every bar, restaurant, dance club, cultural site and taxi in the city will likely be part of the festivities. After all, including the workshops, there were 61 events this year, and that is counting things that went on all weekend as single events, like the vendor mart.

Next year, when you hear a ground-shaking roar, don’t worry about a blast of atomic breath leveling the Terminal Tower. It’s likely just a CLAW party letting out.

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