So, what's a bear anyway? The generally accepted definition of bears is that they are hairy, bearded men, generally more robust and gregarious in nature, and their admirers. But that definition is sort of limiting and implies some kind of bias in the acceptance of others, which is the opposite of the real nature of men who consider themselves bears, and people who like bears. Anyone is welcome in Bears of the Old Pueblo. Bears come in all sizes and shapes and types.
Being a bear resides more in attitude and philosophy of life. The essence of "bearness" is acceptance of others, just as they are. Bears are more simply just men who like men without pretenses about images and stereotypes. We're a lot more than just a bunch of overweight, hairy men who like to wear flannel and Levis! Men of all types and professions belong to Bears of the Old Pueblo. The bear movement began generally as a reaction to the image of the ideal gay man as a lean, smooth-bodied, muscular creature. Such an ideal leaves no place for those who don't fit such an image, or who don't identify with such biases about other people.
Bears of the Old Pueblo provides a social organization and social activities for gay people who are looking for a place to belong, and a means of mutual support and friendship. BOP offers an alternative to the bar and party scene. Most of all the purpose of BOP is providing fun to its members. We have pot lucks, movie nights, special excursions, hikes, evenings out on the town, camping trips, and lots of other activities designed to provide a variety of fun experiences for our members and others who would like to participate. Once a month we have a business meeting to review and plan activities (See calendar for dates and times). The business meeting is also a social time and get-together with a pot luck and fellowship, to which anyone is welcome to attend. All of our meetings and many of our activities are open to anyone who would like to participate.
On the fourth Saturday of each month Venture-N is currently sponsoring our "beer bust." Check our calendar for hours as they are different during summer. Sodas are also available to those who prefer not to have alcohol. The purpose of the beer bust is also a social gathering and a chance for people to meet our members. TProceeds and tips from the beer bust benefit local charities.
One of the goals of BOP is also to be a responsible and contributing component of the gay community in Tucson. We have provided ushers for the Reveille Gay Men's Chorus concerts. During the past several years, the proceeds of our fundraising have provided support to Southern Arizona Aids Foundation (SAAF), TIHAN, Our Town Transitional Living Program for teens, a residence for people living with AIDS, WingSpan, OpenInn, specific WingSpan programs, training for dog companions for the handicapped, Share Bears, an assistance program for people living with AIDS administered for the community by SAAF, suport for a teen to attend a leadership conference and other local organizations. From 1996 to dat, BOP will have given about $50,000 to charities and causes in the Tucson community. Members of BOP serve in many capacities in local organizations such as SAAF, Reveille Gay Mens Chorus, Tucson Pride and others. Our current charities are WingSpan EON program for homeless LGBT youth and SAAF prevention activities.
Beginning in January 1997 BOP sponsored its First Annual La Fiesta de Los Osos. January 2013 will mark the 17th successful year for La Fiesta. La Fiesta is a weekend gathering for bears from around the country, and around the world, planned at a time of the year when people from other places can come enjoy Tucson weather, sightseeing and fun. La Fiesta has become one of the "premiere" bear events held anywhere in the world.
Las Fiestas have featured a unique and humorous bear contest open to the public at which the audience voted with their wallets for the "best bear." The contests of 1998 through 2012 have raised over $20,000 for local charities, including Our Town, WingSpan, TIHAN, OpenInn and SAAF. Attendance has grown from La Fiesta 1997 with 90 bears, to La Fiesta 2005 with 300, and 200-230 in recent years.
In the past Bears of the Old Pueblo has given a premium or gift each year to each member in good standing as of September 1. These premiums are usually distributed at a gathering on Labor Day weekend. Premiums have been T-shirts, tank tops, caps and towels, printed or embroidered with the cub logo.