A gay festival in the US has adopted an Icelandic format. One of the main men only events in Seattle takes inspiration from the second biggest queer event in Iceland.
“I think it’s wonderful. They wanted to create a similar festival to ours in Seattle. We thought it was a great idea, so they went for it,” says Frosti Jónsson, the organizer of the festival BEARS ON ICE, which kicks off today, Thursday September 1st. A bear festival in The US, XL Weekend, has adopted the BEARS ON ICE format, which is more about social networking than just parties.
“They wanted to create a similar festival to ours in Seattle. We thought it was a great idea, so they went for it.”
“The organizers of XL Weekend in Seattle have attended BEARS ON ICE in the past, one of them five years in a row. So I am good friends with them,” Frosti explains, when asked how this came about. “This community of bears is in many sense quite small and we all know someone who’s involved in organizing bear events all over the world.”
Being based on the same format as BEARS ON ICE, XL Weekend is held in the course of a few days and is a mix of social events, sight-seeing and parties. “I’m told around 200 guys will attend this year,” says Frosti and adds that the number of people attending is by no means a focus point in festivals like these.
“This is one of the main events in the gay scene in Seattle and the only bear weekend. Like here, there is a certain core group that goes to all events but there are many, many more that take part in the main party on Saturday.
So it’s not only about how big the festival is in numbers. The main objective is that guests return home happy and satisfied after having met other men from all over the world. Social event is a key element in this regard – it’s all about connecting with like-minded men around the world.”
Spicing up the gay scene
BEARS ON ICE has been successful to say the least and is now being held for the 12th year in a row. Frosti has organized it from the very beginning – was there never any doubt in his mind about focusing both on social events and parties?
“No. The gay scene is about more than parties. It’s about networking and socializing and you can do that in more places than at a party in the middle of the night,” he says with a snigger. “Our festival is about creating a social platform where men have the opportunity to meet other men and enjoy
themselves together. The group is very easy-going and it’s all about having fun, being yourself and mutual respect. We have no room for drama or attitude.”
Some 200 foreign guests are expected to enjoy the BEARS ON ICE festival this year so the festival has never been bigger. Full event passes are sold out, but they entail full access to all parties, sight-seeing around the Golden Circle, organized tour to the Blue lagoon and a farewell brunch.
“I think there is a room for more diverse events, whether it be men only festivals or other kinds of gatherings.”
But not to worry for those who didn’t snag a pass because the party passes are still up for grabs. With those you can enjoy the Friday party at Ægisgarður and the main party at Gakurinn on Saturday. You can also just show up at the parties and buy tickets at the door.
Frosti says the festival has always gone swimmingly and stands up to it’s goals of being a friendly social event.
“Bars have courted us, so to speak, since we are really good guests. We are extremely tidy and leave the place in almost pristine condition. There is no fuss – we just want to have a good time and give lots of hugs to one another.”
BEARS ON ICE is the only men only event in Iceland and the second biggest queer event. Given it’s popularity, does Frosti think that Iceland is in need of more men only festivals?
“I think there is a room for more diverse events, whether it be men only festivals or other kinds of gatherings. I’ll just mention the awesome Drag Nights with Drag-Súgur which has become quite popular,” he says and adds that he has made quite a few good friends the last years through BEARS ON ICE and is very excited for this year’s festival.
“I’m always excited to get this group over and to spice up the gay scene in Iceland. Everyone who has taken part in BEARS ON ICE in any way has made a lot of new friends all over the world. I know that some men travel to visit guys that they have met here and have their mini BEARS ON ICE gatherings of their own.”