For most people Colorado Leather Fest 2016 started on Friday mid-afternoon or evening. For me, it started almost 3 years ago. You see, about three years ago my MOO (Master of Origin) heard stirrings about a new event that was going to be started in Colorado and got both of us invited to that initial board meeting. At that meeting, he recommended me for Operations, the on-site director, who would make everything go smoothly and ensure the event producers were available to be seen and talked to, because everyone wants to talk to event producers. I don’t know why this is but every event I have attended this has been true for.
The first year I meet MOO I had done the same for him for a Pirate convention he ran and on the following year for that event was told the job had a name other than “dating/being owned by the guy running the event”. I include that because to this day it still makes me laugh. I just figured it was what people did and hadn’t yet realized it was a special gift I had. Just Me Syndrome(JMS) effects me pretty strongly, where instead of seeing my gifts and abilities as special and desirable I discount them because “that’s just me” and I forget how amazing it can be to be me. In my mind, anyone would do this.
2015 was the first three-day Colorado Leather Fest. It went smoothly for the public, yet behind the scenes, there were people working themselves to death, that even I was not aware of until after it was all over. The event was successful. For me, I had failed in my duties. Because I wasn’t aware that some people were pushing too hard. Ops needed to step up her game! So for CLF 2016 I did. I was much more involved in checking with each department head regularly to see where they were at and what they were doing, probably to the point of being a pest at times, but this year, no one on staff was trying to kill themselves to make it happen during the event.
We had a hiccup two weeks before the event that proved to me how vital checking in with people year round was. A member of our board needed to resign due to Real Life. Because I had been following up so often with staff, I knew what was needed and thanks to an amazing community, a few personal friends, and the generosity of the Leather people, we did have enough volunteers to staff the event and were able to give them all breaks and chances to enjoy the event as well. To all my volunteers, thank you, Thank You, THANK YOU!!! Without you, I would have been the person trying to kill themselves to get things done. You all were amazing, showed up before your shifts and worked your hearts out. I would be delighted to have you all working any event I am involved in again. Thank you all.
So back to Friday CLF 2016. My things were mostly already packed. (I was still tweaking the bootblack kit) and at 7am I was at DIA near baggage claim, very excited and slightly nervous. I was lucky enough to be able to pounce upon (or volunteer for) a big service opportunity (outside of just helping run the event itself) and be able to pick up our head judge and his slave from the airport. Luckily they looked very much like their pictures on the website (he was even wearing the same hat) and I was able to pick them up without incident. They asked if I would drive them thru McDonalds and I countered with an offer to take them to my place and make them breakfast. They kindly accepted and I got to enjoy cooking for more than just the hubby and I that morning. They are great conversationalist and if you ever have a chance to sit down and talk with them, I recommend you do.
After breakfast, we loaded up the car and headed towards the hotel, Jako(bless him) had called ahead and asked about getting people checked into their rooms early and after dropping off our guests we headed out to buy those last few things we needed/wanted so that I was ready for the weekend. This included a new phone charger for Jako as he had managed to leave his at work for his brand new, uses a different cable than every other phone we have had, device. Luckily we found one at our third store. We made it back to the hotel and were granted an early check in ourselves by the front desk. Craig, who worked the front desk all weekend, made it happen and was one of the rockstars of the hotel and we actually were about to recognize him at our closing ceremonies as someone who had been amazing. I wish we could have called the entire staff up on stage in order to thank all of them.
I got settled into the room while Jako helped unpack the CLF trailer. Yes, we had a trailer full of things for the event. As soon as I had everything ready in the room, so that I knew where the things I would be needing were (I am a fem and did have 6-8 changes of clothes for the weekend. I might have been working but I was not going to “rough it”! -shudder-) I headed down and got to work.
I don’t think I stopped moving from then on, except for the seven hours of sleep I got during the weekend. Our opening ceremonies were beautiful. Master Shado sang the national anthem and almost made me cry. I had never heard that arrangement before and hearing it while seeing those who I love as family holding the flags, not only of our nation and state, but also of our communities was very moving. Master Scott was a wonder MC for the weekend and kept us all entertained as well as aware of activities.
From opening ceremonies on, there was only one real complaint I kept hearing from people and yes, it started Friday night. “How can I attend everything I want to attend? There is so much awesome going on” This is the perfect complaint to have when you are running an event. The Leather ball, I did not see much of because I was hovering in the back of the bootblack lounge with about 20 other people watching High Shine and learning parts of a 15 year history of International Ms Leather and International Ms Bootblack. This is very important to me because these ladies helped pave the road so that I, as a pansexual heavy fem, can bootblack at event and even be recognized as a good bootblack! These ladies and many others helped blaze the trail I, and many others, am walking and expanding.
As ops, there are always interruptions to your activities during the weekend even when you do get to do things you want to. So when I was attending classes or bootblacking (I got to black at an event I was running!!!!) I was always near the door or had to explain to who I was blacking that I couldn’t give them my full attention like I prefer to. Everyone was willing to accept that. Because I knew interruptions were likely, I avoided the interview portion of the competitions.
The competitions this year were very emotional for me because I am friends with the Master/slave couple and even more emotional because both of the bootblack contestants were my bubbas(small adorable and tasty - in this case a made up word to refer to young animals). I was blessed to be the enabler that got each of them started. I am so proud of both of them!!!
I was not the only one emotional, this past weekend. Fresh out of a relationship, one friend was there to help prove to herself that while her relationship might have ended, she was not alone. Many tears of healing were shed by her and I was honored to be able to help comfort her on occasions. Others were also moved to tears this weekend, enough that I heard one person suggest we nickname the event “the FEELS conference”. Not a bad idea really.
Lady Morgan was kind enough to realize that I was in ops mode and not remembering that I am trying to get pictures of my hands after blacking each event this year. Thank goodness because she got me my picture for CLF. I love messy hands with polish under my nails!
Saturday night was yummy food and then the room was open to all to come in and enjoy the next portions of the contest and some fun entertainment. The Master/slave speeches were moving and interpreted into ASL. We had tried to get an interpreter for the event but were unable to secure one this year. If any of you know someone(s) who might be willing to share of their time and talent for next year please let me know.
Then the evenings entertainment began, Marsha Mellow returned after debuting last year and was joined by a new debut artist Somona Loving in a duet to the song Sisters from White Christmas. Master Trent again missed Marsha completely and Sir Gareth was absent during Samona’s performance. I guess he must have been out smoking. He certainly missed out!
The next step was a gift to Momma Vi and her library of many boxes of handwritten correspondence and news prints. If you have been following Reclaiming our Leather History, you know the details. If you haven’t, get on it!!! It is an amazing group and we need boots on the ground the help us keep finding our own history and items and make sure we don’t lose our culture.
The contestant winners were announced and I will admit when both bootblack contestants were on stage I was very nervous. I knew momentarily I would be both elated and devastated at the same time. Sure enough, I was. Only one of them could win the title and I know it was exceedingly close. Yet one won and one didn’t. I was ecstatic and miserable at the same time. Both handled it very well and once again my pride in them swelled. How on earth was I lucky enough to have two such bootblacks in my life who had grown so much?
Picture time with winners was next and I look forward to what Team Colorado will bring you all over the next year and through all of our various contests both regional and national.
Sunday brought me more unexpected delights. In answer to the “how are you doing?” question I kept being asked, I smiled happily and stated, “exhausted” in complete honesty. The first set of Sunday classes was low on attendance, as usual. I wasn’t the only one exhausted and some people chose to sleep in rather than attend early morning classes. During the second set of classes I jumped into a class on “Living our Leather” and was very glad I did, though I felt like quite the youngster in a room full of people some of whom had started their journeys before I was born o.O
Jako helped me fold and prep the table tents for the luncheon during this time and after they were finished one of the Masters beckoned me over and took the bit-gag I had been playing with from me and put it on properly. I melted. As a self-owned slave, I have not yet found a way to give myself that energy exchange that comes from doing something a Master desires. During the rest of the class, he kept up the subtlest forms of play with just small amounts of pressure and tugs on the bit and I was happily floatly after it all. I was purring!
The keynote brunch started about 15 minutes late. I hope it all went smoothly because it was the turn of one of the bootblacks to be filled with the feels and I was there helping them feel rather than eating. Jako pulled me a plate (I think I would be lost without him sometimes) so that I would eat something later and after a time of crying and being comforted, the bootblack was ready and able to go in and eat as well.
I did eat a little bit but I couldn’t eat much. I was too emotional myself both from helping and from play and from day three of leather family awesomeness. Momma Vi spoke to us about how not showing up in our larger communities allows us to be restricted and diminished by the “dominate” vanilla culture. I hope others heard it and were as disgusted and angry as I was and that all of us show up at all polls to ensure our own protections by voting our lifestyle on any issue that comes up. Anger can be an amazing motivator.
Next was closing remarks then the closing ritual, which I had realized when I did sit down to eat was not only the one I suggested but I was the one who was doing it!!! Whoops! Ok, what did I submit again? Do I remember? Yep, I do, good. The ritual went well and more people had more feels and more tears happened. I thought we were done with the feels until we all said our goodbyes, but I was wrong. Hous Dragon and House of Sinful Pleasures, the houses my bubba’s are in, weren’t done with me. They came up to the stage and called me up. As my mind was already in clean up and tear down mode, I was confused but game. Then they thanked me for all I had done for their bootblacks and gave me a gift from the silent auction. A full pass to WILL (Women’s International Leather Legacy) in August. I had seen it in the auction and had thought about bidding on it myself but then got so busy I forgot to bid on anything and here they all were sending me there to a place where leather women are celebrated!!! My turn for tears and hugs all around. I think my regular quote this weekend about my extended leather family was “I love my family! Y’all suck!” usually said through teary eyes and a smile
On Friday night, I said goodbye to one part of my life forever as my art was placed on the National Leather quilt even though no-one will know that it is a piece of me, as I am no longer a part of that house. It hurt but was also a very healing hurt. I am still friends with the house and suspect always will be. MOO(Master of Origin) let me kiss the quilt square and say my final goodbye before he walked up to put it in place on the quilt. I am very grateful to him for that. He also gave me a huge hug. I am very lucky and honored to have had a MOO who is a mature enough person to remain friends and to have a positive, if different, relationship with me than the one we both started to have together all those years ago.
The final thing for me before tear down and going home was helping LE break a law in my first ever really public pony play. In Colorado, it is illegal to ride a horse while intoxicated. She had her drink and I got to be the horse! The video has already hit FB and I will give it another circuit and add it to my youtube channel as well. It was a great way to enjoy a good laugh to “end” the event.
Then we took everything down, packed it all up. And while packing things up it was realized that a safe way to get those boxes of cultural treasures to Momma Vi’s place was needed. She and her crew were off to another event and there was not a safe place to store them. I fell in love with Jako all over again when he proposed that we take a road-trip out to deliver them. We get to do that next weekend. Though I will admit having the boxes sit on my table and not opening them up and looking through them myself is taking an extreme effort of will. So tempting. But I told Momma I wouldn’t, so they are still sitting there and I am over here typing and drooling at the thought of all the history and knowledge that are held in those boxes.
When Jako finally got me to leave the hotel, I wasn’t quite the last one out, we came home and as a treat, I ordered him a pizza. As it turned out, Animaniacs is now on Netflix and we watched some of that as well both began to decompress and sleep.
Monday I sent out the class evaluations while Jako unpacked and then we went and got massages which I followed with a nap. There have been a lot of naps for me this week. And finally today, Friday one week from when the event started for most people, I have had a chance to sit down and I have had all the wonderfulness that touched me personally begin to process enough that I could write a little about CLF 2016.
In a few days, I will sit down with my notebook and write up what happened from the perspective of OPS with all the thank yous that will be included there. This writing is much more from the woman, the slave and the bootblack called xiaoyi. What a wonderful event full of so much love and compassion and understanding. I am honored and blessed to be a part of it.
Dedicated Service and Excellence Always