Great Lakes Leather Alliance
I have spent my day confirming the various schedule for GLLA.
One of the projects I work on all year is GLLA. The GLLA Mission Statement, from the website, is:
The mission of the Great Lakes Leather Alliance is to build bridges between the Leather, BDSM, D/s, M/s, fetish, and alternative sexual lifestyle communities.
The Great Lakes Leather Alliance hopes to promote education and enhance communication between each of these groups, and it seeks to promote the success and welfare of the individuals and organizations within our combined community. We especially want to protect against threats to our freedom of expression.
We will not discriminate based on age, sexual preference, gender, race, or any other diversity. We plan to show that each of us is equal without doubts or fears of what others may think of us.
With the formation of the Great Lakes Leather Alliance, it is our hope that we will help to form the building blocks to accomplish these goals.
You can check out the page yourself at www.greatlakesleather.org.
My first contact with GLLA was the first year it was held, back in 2001. I was asked to join the group of people that were putting it on. I worked with them for a few months, mostly via a Yahoo group and found there was, in that iteration, way too much drama for me. It also conflicted that year with one of my all-time favorite events, Ohio Leatherfest, so I bowed out and went to OLF that year.
The next year, though, I went to GLLA, back in 2002, and watched the contest, went to classes. I might even have presented, I don’t remember. Watching the contest, though, was of great interest to me, and the next year, slave drew and I ran for Great Lakes Master and slave, the first time the title was awarded.
It was also the first time I’d spent a lot of time with Ms Kendra, the Executive Producer of Great Lakes Leather. She has, in the years since, become someone I consider a close friend, and whom I respect greatly.
slave thomas was with us that year, too, and it was there that he was actually designated officially as “puppy slave.” I didn’t realize until years later that at least one person, Ms Tammy, always had thought that meant that he had an interest in puppy play.
Where that designation actually came from, though, was because the year we ran, we had Belle, my Scottie, with us and slave thomas’ official job was to take care of her, make sure she was walked, etc. It was one of the first times I ever told him that if I needed something and Belle needed something, then he was to see to Belle because I could actually take care of myself.
In any case, drew and I competed and won, and went on to compete at South Plains in Dallas for the International title, which we lost to Master Z and slaveboy tony. Master Z has done wonderful things with the title, and I consider him a friend now.
What was funny about that year, though, was that slave drew, slave thomas and I helped Ms Kendra clean up after the event. She didn’t have a slave at that time and I remember thinking that if we hadn’t stayed and helped, she’d have had so much to do by herself. I offered to help in whatever way I could, and suggested a few things that might be good fits.
In September of 2003, I was asked to join the Board of Directors, the first addition since the creation of the Board. I came in as the Administrative Director. That meant that the first few years, I ran the registration system.
GLLA was smaller then – we run around 500 attendees now, counting volunteers, presenters, judges, etc., but registration is still a big job. I did it for a couple of years and it really wasn’t my strong suit. It’s a very daily kind of job and lots of routine, and I honestly don’t do terribly well with that kind of item.
So, the next year, in 2006, I took on a new role, that of Special Events Director, which is what I have done ever since.
I enjoy it infinitely more than I did registration.
My “job” is to set up cocktail parties and receptions, mixer events and an odd assortment of additional items. The primary thing I do, however, is run and organize the silent auction and the poolside auction, wherein we auction off people and things to raise money for the titleholder travel funds. I’ve raised as much as $7500, and rarely less than $3500.
What I have on my list of events this year, beginning with Thursday night, is a Titleholder kickoff cocktail party, a wedding reception, author signings, a kissing booth, STD and HIV testing, the silent auction, two ice cream socials, a pony, puppy and littles reception, a general mixer, an Olympus titleholder reception, a laughing yoga session, a covering ceremony, kinky gaming, a cigar and bourbon “Ash Bash,” the poolside auction with a cookout and cocktail party, a pre-contest cocktail party and a post-contest cocktail party, a door decorating contest, and a late night pool party.
Now, bear in mind, that’s not ALL the events at GLLA. We also have classes, play space, five contests, a brunch and more things than I can even recall. We work all year on for the one weekend in August. We usually have a half dozen or so Board meetings, and often Ms Kendra and Ms Tammy and I also spend an evening talking about GLLA. She often comes down for an overnight trip, and after we do our usual socializing and chatting, we start talking about GLLA.
Last time we talked for, literally, six hours straight, from 9pm to 3am, about nothing other than GLLA. We decide what we want to do, how we want to do it, and when and where we might be able to make it happen.
I would guess I devote between 200 to 250 hours a year to GLLA, or something around six 40-hour weeks. There are others who put in as much, some who put in more. During the weekend itself, I normally am consumed with GLLA from Wednesday of that week through Sunday.
I drive to Indy on Thursday. I drive back on Sunday night. It also takes me nearly a week to actually recover from the weekend. During the three nights I’m actually at the hotel, I get very little sleep. Last year, it was about 14 hours over the three nights.
It’s kind of a running joke among the Directors that you can always tell who we are because by the end of the weekend, we are limping and a little haggard.
Let me make it clear, too, that there are a number of volunteers, people who don’t have an official Board position, who put in nearly as much time.
All of us work during the year to build dungeon equipment, to keep up with registration, to schedule volunteer shifts and make sure all the shifts are covered, that all the event badges are printed, that the run bags are stuffed, that the website is up and accurate, that the run bags are accurate and printed, that the hotel knows what tables to set up and where, that the vendors are arranged and set up, and on and on and on and on.
In other words, it’s an enormous amount of work.
None of us get paid for it. The only thing we actually get for being Directors or Judges or Presenters or Coordinators is a free registration. We pay for our rooms, we pay for our food, our brunches, t-shirts if we want them, etc.
One might ask why we do it.
I know why I do it, at least some of the reasons.
I like what it provides. I like that people can come from all over the country, literally, and hear speakers who are part of Leather history, who are willing to share their experiences and knowledge.
I like that it provides fellowship, and that we genuinely welcome diversity. We have Leather bears and age-players and cross dressers and straight folks and singles and couples and triads and more. We have people who have never felt welcome or at home anywhere else, who come to GLLA and find a place that feels welcoming and comfortable.
I like seeing old friends and making new ones every year.
I don’t mind all the work, all the time, the literally hundreds of emails and dozens of phone calls, the fact that I am so busy I usually have to have at least one or two personal sorts of assistants, people who (try to) keep me on track so I don’t miss my own events.
I know it’s a lot of work, more than a lot of people are willing to give, and that’s also all right with me.
GLLA is home for me, too.