Saturday, 16 February 2013

Grin and Bear it for 17 Years

For 17 years one of the highlights of the bear calendar – for those who like big and hairy men – was the International Bear Rendezvous (IBR) held annually on the third weekend in February, and the contest to find International Mr Bear. The last one was held two years ago.

The organisers of IBR, the Bears of San Francisco club, found it difficult to provide enough funding for the event and hand out substantial donations to charity, which was always a cornerstone of the event. The worldwide lgbt community has also changed since the first IBR in 1995, as were global social networks and the internet. Other bear events around the world had also been growing in popularity. Like most organisations in other communities this led to a fall-off of volunteer commitment, which was essential for the success of IBR. The committee decided that 2011 would be the last IBR and it’s International Mr Bear contest.

I won’t go into the history of the use of the word “bear” in the lgbt community. Instead, in celebration of the 17 years of the IBR, I bring you a brief history of the International Mr Bear contest and it’s winners.

San Francisco can be called the home of International Mr Bear. It was there in the 1980s that a huge bear community began to dream of a competition on the lines of the highly popular International Mr Leather contest. The first International Bear Expo was organised in 1992 in San Francisco and it featured the first International Mr Bear contest. The winner was John Caldera, a Mexican-American army veteran. He was (and still is) an active member of the bear community and had won other similar local titles, and was a founding member of the Bears of San Francisco. On something of a surreal note, he was one of the torch relay carriers on 9th April 2008 when the Beijing Olympic torch came to San Francisco. Unfortunately the International Olympic Committee would have banned him from taking part if he wore his leather bear outfit! Pity!

In 1994 John acquired the ownership of the bear title and established the first International Bear Rendezvous in 1995. A committee made up of members of the Bears of San Francisco club organised all the IBR contests right up until the last one.

To end today, here is a full list of the winners of the International Mr Bear title :
1992    John Caldera               San Francisco, USA
1993    Stephen Heyl               Denver, USA
1994    Michael Myhand
1995    Will Pettite                   Mr. Southern California Bear
1996    Steve Blancset            Long Beach, California, USA
1997    Jim Parton                   Mr. Southern California Bear
1998    Rob Savides               Leeds, UK
1999    Craig Byrnes               co-creator, International Bear flag
2000    Heath McKay               Mr. Grizzly New England
2001    Scott Perry                  Kentucky, USA
2002    Pat Thorne                  Virginia, USA
2003    Klaus Regel                Cologne, Germany
2004    Scott Hunter                California, USA
2005    Harvey Mallory            Kentucky, USA
2006    Pedro Veral                 Zaragoza, Spain
2007    Andreas Piedehierro   Madrid, Spain
2008    Scott Turner                 (for the 2nd time) Alaska, USA
2009    John David Elam         Kentucky, USA
2010    J. D. Leggett                New York, USA
2011    Paul Hensley               Washington State, USA

The International Bear Rendezvous also held three other bear contests for various bear types, and the winners were :

International Mr Grizzly Bear
1992    Van Floyd                   Denver, USA
1993    Clark Jellison              San Francisco, USA
1994    Rodger Ream
1995    Rodger Ream             Baltimore, USA
1996    Jacques Zonne           Amsterdam, Netherlands
1997    Michael Freer              Seattle, USA
1998    Sherman Hanke          Massachusetts, USA
1999    Michael Patterson       Tuscon, USA
2000    Robert Kenny              Ottowa, Canada
2001    Hal Hillman                  Rhode Island, USA
2002    Robert Cannon           Phoenix, USA
2003    David Mendelson        Seattle, USA
2004    Jay Duckworth            New Jersey, USA
2005    David Nigro                 New York, USA
2006    Tom Swanton             Seattle, USA
2007    Steve Strong               Washington State, USA
2008    Dean Bruno                 Boston, USA
2009    Barry Welch                California, USA
2010    George Hains              New York, USA
2011    Curtis Stanton             California, USA

International Mr Daddy Bear
1995    Clark Bufkin                 California, USA
1996    Sean Minogue             San Diego, USA
1997    Lance Lirette               Vancouver, Canada
1998    Loyd Powell                 Houston, USA
1999    Rob Hathaway            Newberg, USA
2000    Craig McCauslan        California, USA
2001    Dave Ward                  Leicester, UK
2002    Jeremy Fennell           London, UK
2003    Roger Spencer           Cincinnati, USA
2004    Bill Howard                  Lexington, USA
2005    Mischa Kitain               Sacramento, USA
2006    Ali Lopez                     Maryland, USA
2007    Todd Bennett              Salt Lake City, USA
2008    Ringo Nannings          Amsterdam, Netherlands
2009    Joe Mannetti                California, USA
2010    Paul D. Cain                Nevada, USA
2011    Craig Gundersen        Wisconsin, USA

International Mr Bear Cub
1994    Dominick Zurlo
1995    Glen McClintock          California, USA
1996    Joe Parker                   Austin, USA
1997    Duane Mosco              California, USA
1998    Jeff Boone                   Ontario, Canada
1999    Steve Earle                 Kent, UK
2000    Brad Bivvins                Tuscon, USA
2001    Scooter Garoutte        California, USA
2002    Stephen Jensen          Massachusetts, USA
2003    Ian Urwin                     Newcastle, UK
2004    Juan Viera                   Madrid, Spain
2005    Manny Diaz                 Brooklyn, USA
2006    Louis Colasurdo          New jersey, USA
2007    Steve Finch                 Long Beach, USA
2008    Bud Gundy                  San Francisco, USA
2009    Jose Zurbano              Seville, Spain
2010    Javier Perez
2011    Erik Green                   Santa Cruz, USA

This post was updated in February 2017 to include the information kindly provided by my readers below.


  1. 1994 grizzly was also Rodger Ream...only person to be awarded the same title two years in a row.
    1994 cub was Dominick Zurlo (yes, myself) from Albuquerque, NM.

  2. 1992 Grizzly = Van Floyd (Denver); 1993 Grizzly - Clark Jellison (San Francisco)
    - from Steve Heyl

  3. Rodger Ream is from Baltimore, Maryland , not Los Angeles

    1. Quite right. Sorry about that, I'll change it. Thanks for pointing it out.