If you go to Provincetown in mid-July you’re in for a big surprise.
Burly, bearded men by the thousands have crammed themselves into ferries from Boston and are invading this small gay-friendly town on the tip of Cape Code.
The bears are having a party.
And what started out as a gathering of some 200 members of the bear community in 2001 has today grown to almost 10,000 men from more than 40 states and more than a dozen countries. And it gets bigger every year.
But is Bear Week in Provincetown right for you?
Bear Week has something for almost every taste: clambakes on the dunes, a sunset dance, whale-watching tours, guided hikes along the coast, garden tours, pool parties, country line dancing and author readings at the Provincetown Library (where I spent one wonderful afternoon reading a chapter of my novel, Shirts and Skins, to an eclectic mix of brawny bears and prim Cape Code ladies).
When the sea beckons during the scotching afternoons, men head to the beautiful Herring Cove Beach, and, although nudity is illegal, a bear or two sunning himself in the buff is not an uncommon sight on the more secluded end of the beach.
Do you like to dance? There is a different themed dance every night (lumberjack, underwear, leather), and all of the nightclubs run special events during Bear Week, bringing in DJs from across the US and Europe. The largest annual fundraisers are the Firemen's Ball, which raises funds for the Provincetown Firemen's Association, and the Uniform Ball, which raises funds for the Provincetown Soup Kitchen. And, of course, there is the daily tea dance that sees thousands of beefy men dancing together in the sun for what is called “Provincetown’s biggest outdoor dance party.”
And there is the food. In addition to the candy, fudge and ice cream stores that pepper Commercial Street, Bear Week includes a number of brunches, buffets and barbecues in the official program. And there are many restaurants in Provincetown where a hungry bear can find a great meal, fresh seafood being a Provincetown specialty. One restaurant owner confided that this is one of her favourite (and most profitable) weeks of the summer. “Bears eat,” she said, smiling.
The Provincetown Bears, the hosts for Bear Week, pride themselves on their inclusiveness. “All of the planned bear events are open to the public,” says John Burrows, founding director of Provincetown Bears. “This includes women and families who choose to enjoy Provincetown during Bear Week. It’s a great bear event for non-bears who want to join in with the party.”
So if Bear Week sounds right for you, it is suggested that you start planning early. Rooms fill up during Provincetown’s Bear Week earlier than for other summer theme weeks. “It is advisable to reserve accommodations by March,” Burrow says. “Though many reserve a year in advance to secure space at a favourite guesthouse or condo rental.”
Bear Week 2014 will run July 12 to 20.
Here's the Provincetown Bears' slideshow from Bear Week 2012.
For more insight into the town and helpful travel advice, see our gay Provincetown city guide.
For map locations and website links to more than 100 places of interest, see our gay Provincetown listings pages.