Bearing it all: Highlights from Bearfest South Africa 2023

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Newly-crowned Mr Bearfest South Africa 2023, Marinus Terblanche, reports on the beards, bellies, laughter and other highlights that characterised this year’s event. 

On the first weekend of December 2023, Die Windpomp Male Resort just outside of Pretoria, again saw the heftier and hairier part of the gay and bisexual community, getting together for a weekend of fun and games (naughty and otherwise, depending on your preference).

Bearfest South Africa was conceived and organised for the first time by Chris Taute in 2014 as an annual event for the South African Bear community. There are many Bear events all over the world each year, so why not in South Africa?

Since 2014, the event has moved venues a few times to accommodate growth and also, unfortunately, had to skip a few years from 2018 until 2021. Regardless of the four-year hiatus, Bearfest 2022 made it clear that there is still a healthy community and a need for such an event. The 2023 event confirmed this yet again.

Bearfest 2023 applied the “back to basics” approach, reverting to a simpler version of the event but still offering loads of fun activities and entertainment. After a sunny day of swimming and catching up, Friday afternoon brought with it the Quiz, hosted by local stage actor and long-time Bearfest MC, Grant Towers.

After this battle of wits, dinner was served before legendary comedian Casper De Vries had the bears and chasers in stitches with his commentary on gay culture and the state of South Africa.

Saturday was jam-packed with fun, and a bit of spice, courtesy of Die Rissie Boer who hosted three chilli-eating competitions during the day. Around midday, the big and hairy fellows had to drag themselves away from the swimming pool when it came time for the annual “Bere Sport” where five teams under the leadership of the five Mr Bearfest South Africa finalists competed against each other in some sexy yet ridiculous challenges.

Just before sunset, drag artist Rebbecca Thunderkant was on double duties, bringing not only the entertainment but also MCing the Mr Bearfest South Africa competition, which entailed not-so-typical pageant questions, amateur lap dances, and an audience vote for their favourite.

I had the honour of being voted Mr Bearfest South Africa 2023, becoming the community’s representative and ambassador for the next 12 months. The evening concluded with a communal braai and a Village People-themed party that ran into the early morning hours.

Old friends hung out, new friends were made, and all in all, it was another successful Bearfest South Africa. Special mentions and thanks to event sponsors Rara’s Gay Bar Pretoria, and prize sponsorships from Die Windpomp, Bear-able Wear, Simply Nick Interior Décor, and Pure4Men South Africa.

Should you be interested in more Bear events and Bearfest, join the Bears Events and Parties SA group on Facebook and also keep your eyes on sabearfest.com.

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