It’s three days of harnesses, hot guys, daddies, bootblacks and all sorts of activities as Atlanta Leather Pride dominates the Eagle this weekend.
The annual celebration also serves as the birthday party for the leather bar, which this year marks its 29th anniversary. The demonstrations start on Friday evening and continue into three contests on Saturday before winding down on Sunday with brunch.
“What we like to think is that it gives people a safe space to come together and shows everyone that we are here,” said Nitro Hankinson (second photo left), a co-producer of Atlanta Leather Pride. “The weekend is a chance to bring people together, have fun and do something good while we are at it.”
Each year, the weekend benefits a different charity with organizers naming the Leather Heart Foundation as the recipient for 2016. Atlanta Leather Pride will also pay tribute to Alan Penrod, Hankinson's longtime partner and co-producer of the event who died in January.
“We like to have fun but we also can do things for a good cause. Case in point – ever since we founded this in 2010 we have raised money for a charity each year. We rotate that every year. This year the charity is the Leather Heart Foundation, which provides support to those in the leather community who have fallen on hard times,” Hankinson said.
Ahead of the weekend, we dished with Hankinson about Atlanta Leather Pride, what fans can expect, how to pick a harness and what the judges look for when they name a new Mr. Atlanta Eagle on Saturday.
How long has Atlanta Leather Pride been going on – and what is your involvement?
We started in April of 2010. I have been co-producer since the beginning and this is our seventh year.
How strong is Atlanta as a leather city?
We have a really rich history in Atlanta of having a strong leather community. That had kind of gone underground for a long time, but we have been lucky that over the last decade we have seen a resurgence in activity out in public. We have definitely put our name on the map.
Do people come from all over?
Oh yes. Atlanta Leather Pride typically brings participants from one end of the country to another. We have had people from Canada down, all over the place. It’s exciting to see them here having a good time. It definitely packs out the space. It is male centric but we have large support from our sisters in the community who support the event. We have a cross section of not only genders but also every aspect of the community. We are very inclusive – all genders, all kinks are represented. Whoever you are, we want you to come out and have fun.
What are some of the major events?
Friday we have the Hotlanta Rubber and Gear Club Barnight. We will be having some demos throughout the evening and some fundraising activities. Friday is a very social time. Saturday from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. we have a beer bust and barbeque with a $5 suggested donation. And then the big shebang are the contests from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m., which are the Mr. Atlanta Eagle, the Ms. Atlanta Eagle contest and the Mr. Southeast Rubber contest. Following that is the Sweat Victory Party with DJ Neon the GlowGoBear. And Sunday at 11:30 a.m. we have a wrap-up brunch at Roxx.
What do the judges look for in Mr. Atlanta Eagle?
The same goes for all three contests. Our primary goal is to have someone represent the bar. There is not a look we are looking for. Our titleholders over the years have come from all facets of the community We want you to represent the bar not only there within the four walls of the Eagle but out within the community as well, whether that is getting people together to go support other bars while wearing title vest or out at other events. The Southeast Rubber Contest is a regional title. We want you to expand that in a regional level. Go to events in other states and regions. But the main focus is having people see you having a good time and being that person someone can approach and ask you questions.
What are the categories?
To simplify we keep the categories the same for all three titles. It makes things a lot easier. The three categories are bar wear and leather image to showcase you and who you are. Then there is fetish wear – and we leave that wide open. We don’t want to define that for you. The last category is the play gear. Again, we let you determine that. It may be a jockstrap and boots, or it may be rubber. It may be sports gear. It’s whatever you play in when you get down and dirty.
What is the difference between the leather and rubber contests?
It’s different sections of the community. There is a material difference between the two. Rubber tends to be a lot more playful and laidback. Sometimes on the leather side you can have people heavily steeped in the tradition, but what you typically see in the rubber side are people there to have fun, to go with it and see where it goes. But the two blend well together.
What tips can you give to contestants to best succeed?
Rule number one – have fun. Rule number two – have fun. Rule number three – have fun. We have the contests to let people showcase who they are, not to be stressed out about a contest. When you are yourself you don’t have to prep or stress for hours to get ready. We want people to entertain the audience and have a good experience.
What makes a good bootblack?
I love our bootblacks, and we are going to have a ton of them on hand this weekend, from all over the Southeast. A bootblack has to have passion. They have to love taking care of their gear but also help to preserve the history it represents. I have some leather gear, especially boots, in our house that are decades old. There is a lot of care involved in making sure they have many years to go in their life span. That is where bootblacks come in handy. They have the skills not just to do a good job in protecting and preserving the leather but in energizing in, putting their heart in it, feeling the energy in it when you wear it the next time.
Tell us about the Friday night demos.
We like people to have fun. Part of that is being able to watch and have that voyeuristic moment. We bring people in from all over the Southeast that will be doing different kinds of demos that people can have a drink, sit back and watch. It’s kind of like peeking through a window in their play room. We have a broad range of topics from rope bondage to flogging to erotic boot blacking.
What tips can you give for picking the best harness?
For harnesses, there are a million different styles. A lot of it comes to personal preference as far as style goes. The best thing I can say is to get with someone like Barking Leather than can fit you for one. Having the right fit for your body will make all the difference in the world.
Will there be a tribute to Sir Alan this weekend?
Yes there will be. It’s set up and will be announced at the event.
Why has the Atlanta Eagle been a great home for you all?
I have traveled from one end of the continent to another and I have been in countless bars everywhere and countless events at these bars. I have never seen a bar staff that goes so far above and beyond to support their community and events. They truly make the bar a welcoming place for anyone, or anyone who wants to put on an event. They take care of people.
Second photo by Brian Hughes