Phurfest 2016

By David-Elijah Nahmod, May 2016 Web Exclusive.

For the past 12 years Phoenix has hosted Phurfest, a gathering of Bears (and friends). From April 28 to May 2, bears of all walks of life – as well as their friends and loved ones – will gather in Phoenix for Phurfest 2016.

The purpose of the weekend-long event, according to Harry Mourlam, chairman of Phurfest, is to bring bears from all over the U.S. and a few foreign countries together for a weekend of celebration, camaraderie and to feel like a part of the community.

"During the past 12 Phurfests, almost 2,000 bears and buddies from over 10 countries have enjoyed the warmth and friendliness of our city," Mourlam said.

It’s safe to say that Phurphest is quite popular in the Bear community.

So what's a bear?

"In male gay culture, a bear is often a larger, hairier man who projects an image of rugged masculinity," Mourlam said. "The bear concept can function as an identity, an affiliation, and there is ongoing debate in bear communities about what constitutes a bear. Bears are almost always gay or bisexual men. Increasingly, transgender men, and those who shun labels for gender and sexuality are also included within bear communities."

According to Mourlam, bears come in a variety of flavors: a cub is a younger (or younger looking bear); a daddy is a mature bear who's looking for a cub with whom he can have a relationship; a teddy is hairy all over; a chaser may or not be a bear, but is attracted to them; a polar bear is older man with whitish hair; and a black bear is a bear of African decent.

There are even Ursulas, Mourlam explained, which are lesbian bears, and Goldilocks are straight women who are friendly to bears.

These are but a few of the myriad of types to be found in the Bear community and culture, he added.

The weekend boasts a full itinerary of events for attendees, including pool parties, guest DJs, a hairy body contest, a beer bust and other activities.

"Our pool parties are quite well know in the local bear community," Mourlam said. "Attendees at Phurfest can look forward to activities geared to all ages for both singles and well as couples.”

The weekend will also include a banquet, a comedy performance by Gloria Bigelow, Phurfest Cub and Mr. Phurfest contests and a musical performance by the Kenny Thames Combo. Proceeds from this year’s event will benefit one n ten.

For more information on Phurfest 2016, including the weekend’s full itinerary, visit phurfest.org.

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