Friday, February 22, 2002

Your Guide to Local Leather Runs

(Leather Life column published in Lavender Magazine, Issue #176, February 22, 2002)

Circuit boys have circuit parties. Sguaredancers have fly-ins. Cowpokes have rodeos. Leather clubs have runs.

One of the hardest things about being a leather columnist is always having to explain what a “run” is. It’s a term from the leather vocabulary that doesn’t seem to have caught on with the rest of society other than those commercials about making “a run for the border”—a phrase that actually captures the idea pretty well.

The appelation “run” traces its lineage back to the motorcycle clubs from which leather clubs evolved. Members of the club would hop on their bikes and make a “run” to visit a neighboring city or another club. Nowadays you’ll still find motorcycle owners among many clubs’ membership, but bike ownership is no longer a necessity for many clubs. The idea of most runs held by leather clubs today is to host folks from many different clubs and cities at a weekend get-together, enjoy each other’s company, have a good time, and do the things that we leather types do.

Three Twin Cities leather clubs—the Black Guard, the Knights of Leather and the Atons—host runs either every year or every other year. Two of them are celebrating significant anniversaries this year, and one of them is hosting a meeting of a “club of clubs” in conjunction with their run.

My experience has been that these three runs are very different from one another, each reflecting the personality of the club presenting it. That means you could attend all three of these runs, have three great but very different experiences, and not feel like you’d repeated yourself.

Black Frost XXV: Then…Now…& Forever, April 5-7

ILLUSTRATION: Black Guard logo

According to Black Guard president Rik Stokes, the club’s Black Frost run is a three-day get-together featuring “male bonding and leather brotherhood.” This year marks the Black Guard’s 25th anniversary, and it will be interesting to see what surprises they have up their sleeves. Over the years the outrageous shows presented at Black Frost have earned the Guard a reputation for being one of the top “show clubs” in the country. The tradition of these shows, in which club members present elaborately staged entertainment featuring female drag, goes back to the shows put on by World War II-era soldiers (an example is the “Honey Bun” number in South Pacific by Rodgers & Hammerstein).

Another distinction: The Black Guard is unique among local clubs in always having “in-town” runs as opposed to camping runs; the name “Black Frost” refers to the fact that the run is usually held in February, when one wouldn’t really want to go camping in Minnesota. (This year’s run is being held later than usual.)

Host hotel is the Day’s Inn Midway in St. Paul (indoor pool—bring your bathing suit), and a full weekend of activities is planned. Various games will be played throughout the weekend and an awards ceremony will be held at the conclusion of the run on Sunday—a tradition which hearkens back to the games of riding skill played at motorcycle runs. There will be cocktails at poolside, and ABBA’s “The Way Old Friends Do” will be sung at least once. For more information and a downloadable registration form visit

Knights Tournament 14, June 7-9

ILLUSTRATION: Knights of Leather logo

For many years the Knights of Leather was a club for leatherwomen, but the Knights now define themselves as a pansexual leather/BDSM club. This run, the fourteenth presented by the club, welcomes the entire spectrum of the kink community: all genders, all sexual preferences, all ages. The weekend is about fellowship, learning and play. This year’s theme is “Kamp Leather,” and in keeping with that theme attendees will have the chance to earn merit badges in activities such as knot-tying, fire-building and knife safety. Workshops dealing with leather crafts and toy-making will be presented in the crafts cabin.

The run site, a private camp within a park, includes cabins with military bunks. Cabins do not have electricity, but modern toilet and shower facilities are available. Attendees will enjoy five home-cooked meals, including a Saturday-night banquet, as well as beverages and snacks. Also provided will be two well-stocked dungeons.

For more information and a downloadable registration form visit (Save $15 by registering before May 5.)

Atons XXXtreme, July 19-21

ILLUSTRATION: Atons XXX run artwork

The longest-running Twin Cities leather club, the Atons are celebrating their thirtieth anniversary with a triple-X run held at a secluded Northwoods camp in the New Ulm area. Plans call for an on-site hot tub, Extreme games, and many more surprises. For more information visit the Atons’ website at (note their new web address).

The Atons of Minneapolis is a member of the Mid-American Conference of Clubs (MACC), an organization whose purpose is coordinating the activities and policies of member leather/levi and motorcycle clubs through the region. Concurrent with this run, the Atons will be hosting the spring MACC meeting.

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