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The Official BWM Recap of Bear Festival Milan 2024

BWM contributor Beltran Horisberger gives us a first hand account of his experience at Bear Festival Milan. Special thanks to Claudio Santilli and Roberto Bini for the gorgeous pictures. WOOF!

Hey there, Bear World Magazine readers! The time has come to pack my bags and embark on a journey to one of my favorite events: Bear Festival Milan (that’s “Milano” if you’re remembering to do your Duolingo, like me).

Returning to Milan felt like a warm, furry embrace, as the city’s vibrant energy welcomed me with open paws. Seeing so many friendly faces in the Italian bear community reminded me why this celebration has become a classic in the international bear circuit.

As both one of the official gogo dancers and a participant, I had the pleasure of immersing myself in the exciting nightlife happenings that this festival has to offer. But that’s not all! From April 24th to May 1st, Milan is teeming day and night with bears from all corners of the globe, creating an unforgettable melting pot of furry fun.

Organized by the fantastic team at Company Club Milano, the festival kicks off with the Discipline Fetish Welcome Party – and on a Wednesday, no less! This unique timing is due to the festival’s clever use of the long holiday weekend that combines Anti-Fascism Day and Labor Day.

Next, the Food & Social Edition events were a total hit, bringing bears and their admirers together over mouth watering Italian cuisine and refreshing drinks. The vibe was just right!

And for those who preferred a more chill scene, the spa and pool parties were the perfect choice. Picture it: soaking in the soothing waters while unwinding in great company.

I had the pleasure of chatting with Paolo, a 39-year-old participant who has attended the festival multiple times. He shared with me how the event has evolved through its history. “Over the years, the festival has continuously adapted and provided new opportunities for attendees. Last year, there was only a volleyball tournament, but this year, they’ve added beach volleyball, indoor volleyball, basketball, soccer, and even bowling. The festival isn’t solely focused on the nighttime entertainment; it collaborates with other organizations in the city to offer various events throughout the week. It’s a festival with a little something for everyone”, showcasing the organizers’ commitment to creating a well-rounded experience for attendees.

Paolo also spoke about competing in the much anticipated Mr. Bear Milano contest:

Paolo: “I’m 39 years old, and this is my second time participating in the Mr. Bear Milano contest. I’ve been here before, but there was a break due to the lockdown. I believe this is my third time attending the festival. In the past, I worked at the Company Club in 2018 and 2019.”

Beltran: In your opinion, what’s the highlight of the festival?

Paolo: “The disco party on the Tram is undoubtedly a unique and memorable experience. I’ve never done anything like that before, and I’m excited to participate in the event, which takes place on Sunday” (don’t worry, reader, we’ll talk more about the “Party on the Tram” later in this article 😉)

Massimo, who oversees the kitchen at Company Bear Bar Milano, has also seen firsthand how Bear Festival Milan has evolved over the years. As we sat down to chat, he highlighted what makes this annual event stand out:

“It’s a particular celebration that you don’t find everywhere, so it’s worth participating in at least once a year. Bear Festival Milan definitely brings a full house to Company Bar, a historic venue that’s been around since 1994. It’s still a very good party and an important event, attracting people from abroad and from diverse backgrounds. Participants come together for the Mister Bear contest and other happenings, making it a unique experience for all.”

Claudio “Lallo”, president of Company Club in Rome and Milan, has organized the Milan Bear Festival for the past 17 years. With a cheeky reference to his age (“I’m 37 years old – or maybe 47!” he says), Lallo shared his simple vision vision for the festival:

“My hope is that everyone has a great time.”

He also expressed his dedication to creating a fun-filled experience for all attendees: “People come here to enjoy themselves, and Milan didn’t have a major event like this before. In fact, Italy as a whole was lacking a major event, so after 17 years, we’re quite satisfied with how it’s grown.” The festival offers a wide range of activities, including sports events for bears, sauna gatherings, bar crawls, disco nights, food tastings, and pool parties.

As I mentioned above, one of the festival’s most unique events is the “Party on Tram,” where participants take over a streetcar, ride around Milan, and turn it into a mobile party. “We drink, dance, eat, and even get a little wild on the tram, right in the heart of Milan. It’s an unforgettable experience!” says Lallo.

And, after experiencing it first hand, I’ll tell you that you simply can’t miss the Party in the Tram experience. Imagine being packed like sardines, in a vintage tram wagon with fellow bears, dancing to Italian music and enjoying Italian ‘rinfreschi’. The tram’s nostalgic charm adds to the unforgettable atmosphere as you mingle with partygoers on a journey through Milan’s scenic streets. Don’t worry about feeling claustrophobic; the energy is contagious, and you’ll be too busy dancing and socializing to notice the cozy surroundings. As you pass by onlookers in the city, people can’t help but marvel at the surprise of seeing a tram filled with burly, hairy gay guys turning up the party on a Sunday afternoon.

The Milan Bear Festival has proven to be more than just a series of parties; it’s a celebration of community and diversity within the bear world. Dimitri, a 30-year-old contestant from Verona, shared his experience and enthusiasm for the event: “The Bear Weekend here in Milan is about community. There are plenty of events happening outside the clubs – it’s not just about nightlife. I believe what sets it apart are the diverse activities that bring people together.” Dimitri continued: “It’s an incredible experience to be a part of, and even though I’m participating as a competitor, I can say that it’s truly beautiful.”

The Mr. Bear Milano 2024 contest was a major highlight of the festival, showcasing the charisma, confidence, and unique qualities of its contestants. The lucky winner will represent Milan in future international bear competitions and host other important gatherings at the Company Club.

The winner this year was Rasta, stay tuned for a future interview with this up and coming Italian bear icon.

As I wrap up this year’s event, one thing’s for sure – the countdown to the next Milan Bear Festival has already begun! The unforgettable memories I’ve shared in this beautiful city will keep me going. So, mark your calendars and get ready for another round of fun, friends, and furry festivities! Are you as pumped as I am? Ci vediamo presto (See you in Milan)!

For more information and for updates about next year’s event go to www.bearfestivalmilano.it

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Beltran Horisberger,

Beltran Horisberger, originally from Paraná, Argentina, immersed himself in rugby from a young age. During his university years in Buenos Aires, he came out as gay, navigating the challenges of aligning with the jock stereotype while embracing his true identity, ultimately emerging as a sports activist. Currently residing in Barcelona, Beltran wears multiple hats as an LGBTQ+ activist, journalist, gogo dancer, and content creator. His advocacy extends beyond rugby, actively contributing to Panteres Grogues in Barcelona, promoting inclusivity in sports. Beltran has served as a spokesperson for the UN's Spotlight Initiative campaign, advocating for violence-free masculinities. With a wealth of experience in LGBTQ journalism on Argentina's national TV, including hosting segments on Altavoz, he has recently co-hosted Scruff Latinamerica's Podcast. Additionally, he runs his own YouTube series, Unicornio de Troya, featuring interviews with activists and change-makers. Beltran has contributed articles on activism, body positivity, and new masculinities for digital magazines worldwide. Simultaneously, as a gogo dancer and performer, Beltran has graced stages globally, participating in iconic bear community events and international circuits in cities like Barcelona, Milan, Athens, Luxembourg, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Fort Lauderdale. Beyond dance, he engages as a BDSM performer, dragqueer , and model for body-positive fashion. Beltran leverages his diverse experiences to champion inclusivity, education, and dialogue within the LGBTQ+ community.

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