TBRU 21: Mardi Gras aims to continue the tradition of raising fun and funds

Xavier-GaugeClose to 2,000 hot and hairy gay men and their admirers are expected to congregate in Dallas this weekend for Dallas Bears’ 21st annual Texas Bear Round Up. And with the event based on a Mardi Gras theme, it will undoubtedly be the biggest, rowdiest, most colorful TBRU yet.

But Dallas Bears President Gauge Xavier stressed that TBRU is “a party with a purpose.”

“Our international bear family comes together in Dallas every third weekend in March. It has been called a Big Bear Reunion, that time when we see our bear friends from all over the world,” Xavier said. “It’s always fun to see so many familiar faces and to meet new people, too. TBRU feeds our souls. But it also does a lot of good work in the community.”

Each year, Xavier noted, Dallas Bears donate proceeds from TBRU to local charities. This year’s beneficiaries are the Greg Dollgener Memorial AIDS Fund, Resource Center’s Youth First Program and Resource Center’s Capital Campaign.

“Members of Dallas Bears and our friends work diligently all year long to produce a fun event and to raise as much money as possible for our charities,” Xavier said. “In 2015, at TBRU 20, 23 gave $82,795 to our beneficiaries.  To date, in our 20 years, we have donated $525,000.”

TBRU is a major event these days, but it comes from humble roots, giving begun about 1995 with “a handful of Dallas Bears members” putting together an event that ended up being attended mostly by the Texas bear community, Xavier said. It may have been small, he added, but the “fun, fur and frolic” were huge.

TBRU’s “robust growth period” began when the event was in its seventh year, and it has grown from being organized by a co-chair, to “a co-chair system,” Xavier said. These days, he continued, it takes a large team of people led by a moderator to put TBRU together each year.

Over the last five years, Xavier said, attendance has grown by about 200 people a year. Last year, more than 1,700 people registered.

There are other gatherings for the hirsute and hefty and those that love them, but Xavier said TBRU organizers prefer not to compare their event with others.

“Various news articles rate us as the largest bear run of our type — our type being hotel-based — but what we are most proud of is sharing our model with other clubs around the country who come to TBRU to learn the tools and techniques we use to make TBRU a success every year,” Xavier said.

That, he added, is the idea of it all: “Fostering knowledge to help others start and manage bear runs in their own communities fits into the true spirit of being a bear.”

— Tammye Nash

TBRO 21:Mardi Gras began Thursday, March 10 with registration and a meet-and-greet event. The event has two host hotels, with daytime events at Love Field Hotel & Suites, and nighttime events at Crowne Plaza — Dallas Market Center.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition March 11, 2016.