Friday, October 10, 1997

Of Magic and Mountaintops—Reflections on the Atons 25th-Anniversary Run

(Published in International Leatherman, Issue #17, February-March, 1998)

The Atons of Minneapolis recently celebrated their 25th anniversary with a run themed, appropriately, “A Renaissance—Renewing the Ties that Bind.” This Atons run was unusual in several ways. Normally, the Atons hold a run only during even-numbered years; odd-numbered years feature a smaller, informal campout instead of a run. Atons runs and campouts are usually held in the middle of summer at a campground in outstate Minnesota. The 25th-anniversary run was a magnificent exception to those rules. It was a full-fledged run in an odd-numbered year. It was held in autumn, which meant cooler nights which were perfect for wearing leather. And it was held at the Minneapolis Regal hotel in downtown Minneapolis, a first-class facility which made a very comfortable base of operations for the run and its 139 participants.

The run kicked off Friday night with registration and dinner in the hotel’s top-floor banquet room and geodesic-domed lounge with spectacular views of the Minneapolis night skyline. Participants then had a choice of a Bar Crawl to The Saloon, conveniently located a few blocks from the hotel, or two play parties (one bondage, one watersports). After-hours cocktail parties at the hotel completed the evening.

Saturday’s major activity, in keeping with the theme of the run, was a trip to the 27th annual Minnesota Renaissance Festival in Shakopee, Minnesota. This 22-acre re-creation of a medieval kingdom has for years been a gathering place for artisans and entertainers who bring the village streets to life with food, drink, continuous entertainment, games, and the atmosphere of an authentic marketplace featuring a wide variety of crafts. As if that weren’t enough, the Atons added their own special events including an Enduro which took participants on a tour of the entire festival grounds gathering pieces of information to solve a puzzle.

Saturday night’s 25th-anniversary banquet featured an appearance by leather lesbian Lynn Lavner and entertainment by members of the Twin Cities Gay Men’s Chorus. After the banquet were two more play parties (one bondage, one fisting).

The run concluded Sunday with a breakfast buffet during which the weekend’s awards were handed out and charter member Jim Courtney was recognized with a rousing round of applause for being the last remaining fully-active charter member. A Sunday-afternoon wind-down party at The Saloon was available for those who didn’t have to immediately drive or catch a plane back home. And the Atons, who had been planning this event for over a year, could relax and enjoy the afterglow of another well-done run.

(Published in Lavender Magazine, Issue #62, October 10, 1997)

The Atons of Minneapolis held their 25-year anniversary run, “A Renaissance—Renewing the Ties that Bind,” at the Minneapolis Regal Hotel from Friday, September 26 to Sunday, September 28. Following is the text of some remarks I made at the Sunday morning closing ceremonies.

“This has been a magic weekend for me, and I hope for you all as well. I’d like to tell you a little bit about my experiences this weekend, and offer you a few things to think about during your drive or flight home.

“Of course I knew that this weekend was going to be a magical event, and that the Atons’ 25-year anniversary was historic. But I didn’t really appreciate how historic until I spent some time Friday night talking to a gentleman who is here for the weekend from Chicago. He is a professional librarian, and among other things he is currently the head librarian at the Leather Archives and Museum in Chicago. He gave me a new appreciation of how far back in the community the Atons’ roots really go, and how amazing it is that out of all the clubs that were started years ago, and all the clubs that have come and gone in the meantime—and there have been many—this club has lasted 25 years and is still here, strong and vital. That really is worth celebrating.

“And celebrate we have. Yesterday many of us went to the Renaissance Festival. I had a wonderful time. I’ve been there many times before—years ago, when I was in high school, I worked it—but being there yesterday as part of this group, and at every turn seeing someone in leather, made the day magical. And yes, the evenings and nights have been pretty magical too.

“And then I woke up this morning and I realized something. This is the last weekend of the Renaissance Festival for this year. Just like the mythical Scottish town of Brigadoon, which sprang to life for only one day each century before vanishing into the Highland mists for another hundred years (you Broadway queens out there know what I’m talking about here), the Renaissance Festival is gone after today until next year. And so is this Run. The Atons will have other runs, but there will never be another run quite like this 25th-anniversary run. It’s about to disappear into the mists of history, and we’ll only be able to call back our experiences of this weekend in our dreams and in our memories. All the while we’ve been celebrating 25 years of the Atons’ history this weekend, we’ve been a part of making the history that our leather descendants—and some of us, I hope—will be remembering in 25 years at the Atons’ 50-year anniversary run.

“I had another thought when I woke up this morning, and was thinking how magical this weekend has been. It’s the same thought I have at the end of every leather event I attend, and I imagine some of you have had the same thought: I don’t want this to end. Even for the Atons, who have been planning this for a year-and-a-half and are probably READY to have this end, I bet some of you are feeling the same thing I felt this morning: Life should always be like this. I want life to always be this magical, to always be surrounded by my tribe and feel the sense of comradery, caring and community I always feel at events like this. Like Moses, I find myself wanting to live the rest of my life at the top of the mountain, in the presence of what I consider holy.

“But life isn’t like that. We have to come down off our mountain tops, and go back out into that everyday, ’normal’ world that often doesn’t understand us, doesn’t always let us be who we truly are, and sometimes makes us feel out of place. Why does this have to be, I was asking myself this morning. And the answer came back—because there are people out in that world who want what we have, who want what we have been enjoying this weekend—and don’t know how to find it. We have to go out there and let them know that they can be a part of this—they can be a part of us— if that’s what they want. They won’t be able to find it by themselves, and we won’t be able to maintain it by ourselves. But by joining together with them, and letting them join together with us—just as a bunch of guys joined together 25 years ago and created a club called the Atons—we’ll ensure that our tribe continues and grows, and that for years to come we’ll always have places and times like this weekend, when we can come together and be who we truly are, and celebrate.”

Leatherwomen: Contestants Wanted

W.I.L.L.O.W. Productions Inc. is now accepting applications for the 1998 Ms. Minnesota Leather Competition. Requirements: Must be a resident of Minnesota, a woman 21 years or older, friendly, gracious, knowledgeable in leather, and ready to work equally with the men’s and women’s communities. Eager to educate, support, and listen to the newcomers entering the leather scene locally and abroad. Must possess strong leadership skills with the ability to organize and speak in public forums. You must be financially capable of supporting the expenses attached to holding this title and must compete at the 1998 International Ms. Leather competition. For more information or to receive an application, contact W.I.L.L.O.W. Productions Inc., Brooklyn Center MN. (W.I.L.L.O.W. Productions Inc. is the Official Representative for the 1998 Ms. Minnesota Leather Competition.)

Upcoming Leather Events

Steve Kelso Appearance benefiting The Aliveness Project
Friday, October 24, The Town House (St. Paul)
Doors open at 6 pm; $10 admission includes a buffet supper at 6:30 pm; Kelso’s appearance starts at 9 pm. Buy a calendar, poster or video and he’ll autograph it for you (Christmas is coming—great gift ideas). Music is by DJ Damon. All proceeds benefit The Aliveness Project’s Holiday Basket Project.

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