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Mr Ruff gives burly go-go dancers a chance to shine

Who will earn the March 2016 title in Vancouver?

Candidates from Mr Ruff 2015 hosted at The Pint joined by Mr Ruff 2014 Glenn Credit: Ben Ami

The hunt is on for Vancouver’s next Mr Ruff as contestants prepare to dance, strut and strip their way to one of go-go dancing’s gruffest gay titles.

The winner can expect more than a little attention, says Mr Ruff organizer Michel Nadeau.

“Our last year’s selection was probably the busiest go-go dancer in Vancouver,” Nadeau says. “He got hired by all the other clubs.”

This year’s winner will not only take home the title but the added bragging rights of winning year five, as Mr Ruff hits its first big anniversary.

The annual “popularity and personality” competitions started in 2012 as some of Vancouver’s bravest bears began vying for votes on stage and online to win some cash and the coveted sash.

“You represent the Ruff name for the entire year, so you get privilege and the status that goes with it,” Nadeau says. “It’s like Mr IML (International Mr Leather) in Chicago, but a much, much, much smaller scale.”

This March, four contestants are in the running for Mr Ruff in Vancouver: Aaron, Anuar, Jesse and Shane.

“This is a contest open to everyone in the community,” Nadeau explains. “Because we just take regular Joes in our community that have been very present in our community — they are just regular members, they go to all sorts of events — and we get them in a costume to shine on stage.”

Each contestant then does his best to earn as many votes as possible. “Because people have to vote for them, so it’s not a beauty contest,” Nadeau explains. “It’s a popularity and personality contest. So people vote for their favourite. And they give money to their favourite, to help them win the title.”

The money raised this March will be donated to the Vancouver Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence (Abbey of the Long Cedar Canoe). Nadeau added the fundraising component to the competition in 2013.

This spring the Mr Ruff series is also adding a new date to its usual three nights per year: a May long weekend event. The new Sunday night will join the existing roster of events, which includes a party during Pride week, another for Thanksgiving and an event every Easter weekend.

“We’re going to do the event on Sunday night for a change, and see how it goes,” Nadeau says of the new May addition. “There’s so much local talent that we’d like to have featured at our event.”

The hunt for Mr Ruff 2016 — and its fifth anniversary after-party — will take place at The Pint in Vancouver on March 25, 2016.

The four contestants will compete for prizes and $1,500 in cash donated by RodRozen Designs.