Bear RunsEvents

Belgium Bear Pride: Bigger and Better than Ever!

Mr. Bear Lisbon, DIniz Sanchez is back with a recap of Belgium Bear Pride. See his account of the event below!

From September 25th  until October 1st  2023, Brussels vibrated with BELGIUM BEAR PRIDE, this year with the theme of Bearytales.

From Monday the 25th to Thursday the 28th we had many events:

  • A body positivity workshop with Andy Nijs (NL/UK) followed by a photoshoot with JU.V.A Photo, a national photographer specializing in taking pictures of Bearmen;
  • An encounter with Mister Bear Europe 2019, who shared his experience about becoming visually impaired;
  • A charity dinner on Wednesday benefitting “Infirmiers de Rue /Straatverplegers” (Street Nurses);
  • – and the Belgium Bear Pride Flag raising ceremony in front of all the establishments supporting Bear Pride on Thursday.

Things got much busier on Friday, however, with the arrival of the jury members for the Mr. Bear Belgium contest, the Mister Bears and sash holders from around the world who were attending the competition, and all the other gorgeous attendees flocking into Brussels for Bear Pride festivities.

On Friday evening the first meeting – “Drinks and Fairy snacks” at La Réserve (the oldest Gay Bar in Brussels and a common meeting place for Puppies) was packed!…. and then a couple of hours later the Fairytales Pub Quiz organized by Le Baroque (a local bear bar) was completely full both inside and out – with attendees socializing and having a good time.

After that, in what seemed to be a blink of an eye, Saturday, the biggest and busiest day of the event arrived. At 10:30 AM  there was an interesting guided tour around some important landmarks in the center of Brussels. The tour was divided into 2 groups (one in English and the other in Dutch) and guided by 91 Parallele.

As interesting as it was, only the early birds attended the tour. The day really got started at 2pm with the Bear Pride Parade. Mister Bear Czechia was the special guest, joining all 5 candidates for Mister Bear Belgium, and numerous sash holders from other countries. The event was really unique because not only was it a Parade, but it was also a guided tour through different landmarks of the LGBTQIA+ community in the city of Brussels.

Later that night, the big moment arrived: The Mister Bear Belgium 2024 election and show, at Théâtre du Vaudeville. The evening started at 8:30 PM with DJ Pascal, DJ Beky & Horst entertaining a packed theatre before (and after) the election, which started around 10:30 PM.

Full disclosure, I was invited by the Belgium Bears to come to the event as the stage director and choreographer to work with the candidates in a pair of numbers that they performed together. I also performed, as Spicy Tutuboy in one of these numbers. As a result of this, my opinion on the event might be a little biased so let Dany, Mister Bear Netherlands 2023, give his opinion:

“This was my 3rd time attending Belgium Bear Pride, and I saw a very big improvements in quality from past years! I would like to make a special reference to the Election Show of  Saturday night:

  • all the presentations were amazing
  • all the candidates showed a lot of potential and talent
  • there was a lot of people from all over the world in attendance
  • there were so many Mister Bears from other countries (more than other years)
  • the theatre was full
  • the atmosphere was nice
  • and the election show itself was very good”.

The show was hosted by the beautiful artist Jewel (@xoxofromjewel) who opened the show with an amazing number and Gérard Watelet, a well known gay celebrity from Belgian and French TV.

On stage, besides the 5 candidates for Mister Bear Belgium 2024: Aldo, Bruno, Geoffrey, Massimiliano and Sonny, were also Johnny, Mister Bear Belgium 2023, and Andy Lors, Miss Bear 2023,  another amazingly beautiful artist (@andylors20), who performed a couple of wonderful numbers.

The “common show” started with Miss and Mister Bear Belgium 2023’s staged appearance that led into a dancing  number by the 5 candidates, staged and choreographed by Diniz Sanchez (yes, me: Mister Bear Lisbon 2023!), followed by the individual numbers of each candidate which showcased their personal talents – there was dance-theatre, a drag performance, and even an opera aria sung live. Then there was a grand finale number with Spicy Tutuboy (yes, me again!) and the 5 candidates on stage, portraying our version of Bear Fairytales!

Opening performances from the 2024 Mr. Bear Belgium Competition

After that, all the votes were counted and all the sash holders were invited to come on stage and assist with the announcing of the night’s 3 victors: In First place – Mister Bear Belgium 2024: Geoffrey; 2nd place – 1st Dauphin: Aldo; and 3rd place – 2nd Dauphin: Sonny.

Then the party went on all night long with DJ’s, music, and dancing!

Said Kristian, Mr. Bear Belgium 2019: “Without a doubt I can say that Belgium Bear Pride 2023 was the best pride I’ve ever been to. By saying that I mean: candidate presentations, programming, organisation, and THE SHOW itself were so well conducted!  And even if there were some issues, nobody noticed them and everyone was more than pleased with the event. My thanks to everyone who was behind this superb Bear Pride event and looking forward to next year.”

But the Bear Pride event wasn’t over just because the election was! On Sunday there was a “Bear Splash” event at Oasis Sauna, the Bear Sauna of Brussels, that featured a brunch and bath with Mister Bear Belgium 2024, from noon onwards. And then to close the Festival, we had the election of Miss Bear – “Looking for Goldilocks”- at Le Baroque. There were 4 candidates: Natalia (@missbearbelgium2024), who won first place; Nana Stone (the first cis-woman to compete in the contest) who won 2nd place – 1st Dauphine; Marc, who was 2nd Dauphin; and Mika aka Miss Volta, who promised to come back and try again next year!

You might be wondering what this Miss Bear contest is all about? Well, it seems it started as a parody of the Mister Bear Belgium election, but it has now become an official part of the Bear Pride events in Belgium. As Otman, who works at Le Baroque and is an organizer of the event and a sponsor of Pride, says:  “I need to mention the Miss Bear contest. It grows every year, and I hope it will export itself around the world one day, allowing people that might need it to find it, in order to feel included and respected.”.

As for me and my thoughts on the event I would like to highlight the lengths and efforts that the organization of Belgium Bear Pride have gone to in order to create an unforgettable week and sequence of events. Beyond the usual dancing parties and meetings at clubs, bars and saunas – which are great, and no Bear Pride could exist without these types of events –Belgium Bear Pride went much further, especially for their title competition. For the first time ever, the candidates were announced 3 months in advance, and they were coached, prepared and taken all around the country, with the aim of creating contact between the community and the candidates, which is so important. After all, is Mister Bear just a nice face that gets elected for its beauty, or is he representing his community?

Further to this, in Belgium each title candidate needed to have a platform project, related to the community. So when Mister Bear is elected, his project is also supported! The projects of the other non-winning candidates also receive special attention and help from the Belgium Bear Pride organization. I invite you to check out the Belgium Bear Pride website and discover the projects of all this year’s candidates!

And last but not least, another thing that makes Belgium Bear Pride stand out is that professional performing artists were invited not only to perform in the final election show, but also to work with the candidates, teaching them and challenging them to outdo themselves in order to create a memorable show, with high quality!

I hope that this will be a starting point towards improving the quality of Bear Prides all over Europe and around the world, with professional artists being tapped to share their talents with the community. I know that among the LGBTQIA+ community and amongst the Bear community there are many talented, professional artists that would love to work for these events. Yes, we are professionals, and professionals need to be paid. We can work together and find funds to include professional artists to ensure better quality shows and events! At the end of the day this is what I, as Mister Bear Lisbon, as a performing artist, and as a member of the Bear community, want to give to the people attending these events. Let’s see what happens.

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