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Friday, November 24, 2017

The Maine Event

Written by  Rodney Burger
Harbor Masters, Portland Harbor Masters, Portland

I always have an amazing time each year at the big leather events such as Mid-Atlantic Leather Weekend in Washington, DC, or International Mr. Leather in Chicago. These events draw hundreds of leather folks – and who doesn’t enjoy seeing the sights in a big city? Everyone in the leather community has been to these annual gatherings. When you are making your New Year’s resolutions in a few weeks, think about planning to attend a small leather function next year. It’s even more fun if the event is held in a city that you have never visited before and in many cases would never think of visiting.

I’ve just returned from spending the weekend of November 10th to 12th celebrating the 35th anniversary of the Harbor Masters leather club in Portland, Maine. I’d met many members of the Harbor Masters over the years at other events, but had never visited their hometown. I had a great time exploring historic Portland. I really enjoyed this leather Maine event!

Sir Steve and I decided to make a road trip out of our weekend getaway and drove the eight-and-a-half hours from Baltimore to Portland. Although the Harbor Masters’ weekend didn’t start until Friday evening, we got a head start and left Thursday morning. We had planned to not drive the whole way to Maine on the first day, but once Sir Steve got going we soon found ourselves in the “Pine Tree State.” Although my hotel reservation at the Clarion Hotel was made for Friday and Saturday, the front desk was nice enough to not only allow me to add Thursday, but to move some other reservations to make sure that my room was on the fifth floor with many of the other leather folks who took over all of the sixth floor and most of the fifth for the weekend. It was great being able to unpack, relax, and not worry about switching rooms the next day.

On Friday afternoon we had the opportunity to drive around Portland, admire the historic architecture, and explore the Old Port district before the busy weekend began. Friday evening started with a welcome cocktail party in the hospitality suite hosted by longtime leather community leader and DCBC (District of Columbia Bear Club) member Paul Rose. In attendance were members of many various leather clubs because the weekend was not just the Harbor Masters’ anniversary, but on Saturday afternoon representatives from member clubs of the AMCC (Atlantic Motorcycle Coordinating Council) gathered for a meeting. The AMCC is an umbrella organization for predominately east coast leather clubs that dates back to 1969. One of the main functions of the AMCC is to set the calendar for the year so that area leather clubs do not hold conflicting major events on the same weekend. It was great to see so many old friends. In fact it appeared that each club had sent their most senior member. I’ve been a member of the ShipMates for over 20 years and there were many other folks there with similar longevity in the leather community. In fact the only chicken I saw all weekend was on the buffet! After the opening cocktail party there was a wonderful buffet dinner in a hotel ballroom followed by a gathering at the Harbor Masters’ home bar Blackstones. Van transportation from the hotel to the bar was provided.

I was told that until recently Portland also had a LGBT dance club, but it has closed. Blackstones is now the only LGBT bar in Portland and is celebrating 30 years. It’s not a big bar. It appears to be larger when one first walks in, but after a while you realize that mirrored walls can work magic. There’s a pool table area off to the left on one side and a long bar down the right side wall. There are lots of hooks under the bar and along the walls for folks to hang their coats. The people of Maine are very friendly and warm, but the weather is a different story.

When we returned from the bar (which closes at 1 am) we were just in time for the after-hours cocktail party hosted by Boston’s Bay State Marauders who went all out with a football player theme.

Saturday morning began at 8 am as New York’s Excelsior MC hosted an eye-opener cocktail party themed: “There’s Got to Be a Morning After.” The room was filled with falling streamers, half-deflated balloons and in the center was club treasurer Gabe dressed as Shelly Winters dancing on a chair. After a big breakfast buffet in a private room next to the hotel’s restaurant, it was time for the AMCC meeting. In the afternoon a group was taken by van to the Allagash Brewing Company for a tour of the brewery and some beer sampling. The brewery was started in 1995 and featured Belgian-style beers. It was really fun and educational. Plus there was free beer!

We returned from the brewery just in time to get ready for the evening’s formal leather sit-down dinner. We had selected the beef and it was really delicious. In fact all the food at this event was outstanding. After dinner vans once again took everyone to the Blackstone where a live leather auction fundraiser was held. Followed by more cocktails in the hospitability suite.

The Harbor Masters ended the weekend on Sunday morning with another breakfast buffet in the hotel ballroom complete with a made-to-order omelet station. Certificates of appreciation were given to each of the leather clubs in attendance as well as other awards.

Founded in Portland in 1982, the Harbor Masters held a fantastic 35th anniversary complete with some of the founding members still involved with the club. With so many changes in our LGBT community that center around the closing of LGBT bars and the termination of organizations because everyone is now online or busy on their phone, it was uplifting to attend such a well-run intimate leather run. Plus at the cost of just $135 for a whole weekend of meals, cocktail parties, transportation, and a brewery tour it was a great inexpensive getaway and a chance to visit a place I had never discovered before. Make plans to attend one of the smaller leather events in 2018. When it comes to a fun, low-cost little vacations these smaller leather gatherings can be the main event!

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