It takes a lot to coax a bunch of bears out of hibernation mid-winter, but Mr Ottawa Bear manages to do it year after year.
“It’s been building momentum in the last few years, anyway, and people look forward to it — especially in the winter, when there’s not as much going on,” says Wayne LaRocque, president of Ottawa Bears.
“It was actually quite an increase [in attendance] last year,” he says, estimating that about 110 people attended in 2015, up from an estimated 85 people the previous year. “And we’re hoping for a similar increase this year.”
Ottawa Bears, which celebrates its 20th anniversary this year, is the organization that runs the competition. As such, the anniversary is also the theme for Mr Ottawa Bear 2016, which is a full weekend of activities (many of the details of which are still being worked out — see the indicated links for updates and additional information).
The weekend kicks off on the evening of Friday, Jan 29, at Swizzles with bear karaoke — they call it Bearaoke — and the official meet-and-greet. “The judges and contestants are gathering there a little earlier in the evening to do spot interviews,” he says. “And then they’ll stay for Bearaoke and get introduced to the public.”
Saturday begins with skating — called Bears on Skates — on the Rideau Canal. The exact location will be dictated by the weather — they don’t want anyone falling through the ice and getting distracting swatting their paws at salmon — and will be announced on the Bears on Skates Facebook event page.
That evening, the main event will take place at the Jack Purcell Community Centre. It’s an eclectic night with a range of entertainment — drag king troupe The Ottawa Capital Kings, drag queen Dixie Landers and the Bear Fashion Show — interspersed among the stages of the competition. There will also be a silent auction.
“It’s a more inclusive event,” he says. “Like something you’d have at Pride where you want as many people to attend as possible. You want to be able to support the community, you want to be inclusive, and you want to have a good time — that’s what the bears want: they want to have a good time.”
Some of the funds raised at the main event will go to charity. The current Mr Ottawa Bear, Wade Crombie, chose the Youth Services Bureau as this year’s cause.
Significantly, this year will be the first that the winner will be given, among other things, an official Mr Ottawa Bear sash. There will also be a plaque with the names of all previous winners listed and room for future winners. After Mr Ottawa Bear 2016 is crowned, those who want to continue the party can head over to Centretown Pub.
The weekend ends with a Survivor’s Brunch at Lieutenant’s Pump on Sunday — which is in place of Ottawa Bears’ usual monthly brunch — and a Bear Coffee at the Centretown Pub. And with a wink and a growl, so ends a gloriously whimsical and honey-drenched weekend of bear-themed everything.