Tammye Nash  |  Managing Editor

Bigger and better. Those are the key words for Texas Bear Roundup 2017, which kicks off on Thursday, May 18, with registration, the Military Ball and uniform contest and more.

This year for the first time, TBRU has one host hotel — the Hyatt Regency Downtown — large enough to hold all the attendees and their events, instead of everyone being scattered among several smaller host hotels.

And this year’s headlining entertainer is a bigger name than in previous years: Leslie Jordan, star of Will & Grace, Sordid Lives and A Very Sordid Wedding, will be performing his latest one-man comedy show, “Straight (?) Outta Chattanooga” on Saturday night.

Wayne Davis is president of Dallas Bears, the organization that puts on TBRU each year. He noted this week that TBRU — the largest bear event in the country — is about two months later than usual this year. The reason for that, he added, is one of the “big” changes.
“Usually, TBRU is in March, right around spring break time. But we’ve moved to a new host hotel, the Hyatt Regency Downtown, and we weren’t able to get the usual time,” Davis explained. “We got a four-year contract, and because of scheduling the first two years TBRU will be in May, and the last two years we’ll move back to the traditional March date.”

Getting the contract with the Hyatt Regency is a coup for TBRU, Davis said. “This is our first time to just have one host hotel, and it’s been a long-time dream to have a host hotel large enough to have everyone under one roof.”

The Hyatt’s ballroom and event space is also “more than we even need,” with plenty of room for all the TBRU events.

Davis said he and some other Dallas Bears members met Jordan in Lexington, Ky., when they went there for the North American Bear Weekend.

“That’s our sister event, the second-largest bear gathering behind ours. Leslie Jordan was there, doing his show, and all the Dallas Bears that were there just loved it,” Davis said. “Then we got to meet him when we went through the autograph line. We told him who we were and about TBRU, and he said right then, ‘I want to come to Dallas. I want to perform at TBRU.’”

Davis said that TBRU organizers are “really excited” to have Jordan performing his show for the Dallas event. He really is amazing, and our Dallas audience will love him.”

Davis said Jordan’s show is open to the public, and tickets are $40, available online at TBRU.org.

Davis noted that TBRU organizers are also thrilled to have Dallas comedian Paul J. Williams returning to host “our traditional Bear Bingo” as Sister Helen Holy. As of Wednesday, May 10, 1,360 people had already registered for TBRU, and Davis said he expects attendance to end up being between 1,500 and 1,700.  But one thing that isn’t bigger this year, he said, is international attendance.

“We usually have people from all over North American and 15 or 16 foreign countries. But our international attendance has really dropped this year. We’ve heard from a lot of the men, especially in Mexico and Canada, that they just don’t feel safe or comfortable coming this year because of the political climate in our country.

Davis said TBRU is once again partnering with Bear Dance, taking place Friday night, May 19, at S4 and featuring Alaska Thunderfuck 5000. A new partner this year, though, will be Cathedral of Hope, which is hosting a seminar on transgender issues the same weekend.

“Instead of trying to do our on workshop on transgender issues, we are directing people to the one at Cathedral of Hope,” he said. “We do have trans people in the bear community, and they are totally welcome at TBRU.”

The deaf community is welcome as well, he said, noting that there are special events planned for the deaf bears attending the weekend.

“Our deaf bear community is really growing. The Dallas Bears membership actually pays for an ASL interpreter for all our meetings and for all the TBRU events,” Davis said.

Davis stressed that while TBRU is designed with bears in mind, “it’s not just for bears. We have all kinds of people and their admirers that come for the weekend. They come because it is fun, and because it’s for a good cause. The money we raise goes to our charities — this year, Resource Center’s Nutrition Program, the Greg Dollgener Memorial AIDS Fund and the Sharon St. Cyr Fund. This is a party with a purpose. It’s a family reunion for bears all over the country, and we’re ready for the fun to begin.”

Registration for TBRU 2017 is still open. For information and a complete schedule of events, visit TBRU.org.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition May 12, 2017.