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Canceled Folsom Street East Fest Bites Back with Bear-aoke Party

By Mathew Katz | April 24, 2013 4:04pm

CHELSEA — Fetish fans mourning the loss of this year's Folsom Street East festival will have a chance to growl along with their fellow bears on Thursday.

Even though the signature street party won't happen this year, organizers of the leather fest say they hope to host a variety of smaller, indoor parties to make up for the loss of the 2013 event, starting with a karaoke party Thursday night in the West Village. 

Folsom Street East, which normally brings thousands of leather-clad revelers to Chelsea each June, was canceled after organizers said it was crowded out by large amounts of construction near its usual West 28th Street home.

But Fil Vocasek, the event's board chairman, said almost immediately after news of the cancellation broke that people from around the leather community reached out to make sure the party didn't die completely.

"We're in conversation with other groups and organizations to make sure there are a lot of fetish, kinky things going on in the month of June," Vocasek said.

While it was too early to say specifically what many of those events would be, Folsom East has previously partnered with Rock Bar, as well as The Eagle, a leather bar on West 28th Street, and the New York Bondage Club to host parties before and after their annual event.

Thursday's "Bear-aoke" party party at RockBar will bring together many of the same fetish-loving Folsom East revelers for drink specials, a raffle and spirited karaoke — all to benefit the New York City Anti-Violence Project.

Calling off the street fest  came at a difficult time for Chelsea's leather scene, as one of the community's longtime mainstays, the longtime Eighth Avenue bar Rawhide, closed at the end of March.

"With Rawhide closing and now the street festival, people realize if they don't get involved now, there will be nothing to get involved in," Vocasek said.

Any future events Folsom Street East hosts would likely benefit the Anti-Violence Project, the LGBT Community Center, and the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom, the three charities that the street festival typically raises money for.

As for 2014, Vocasek said that Folsom East would likely have to find a new home for its outdoor street fair. Organizers have been looking for an alternative home that may be outside of Chelsea and even in the outer boroughs.

"Streets that are hospitable to this kind of event are are conducive to an event of this size are limited, and that number is shrinking, drastically, every day," he said.

The Bear-aoke party will take place on Thursday at 8:30 p.m. at RockBar, 185 Christopher St.