Over the weekend of May 31 – June 2, 2013 the Knights of Leather held their silver anniversary run, Tournament 25. Nestled within the forests in Minnesota Leathermen and Leatherwomen – as well as new comers to the scene – converged upon a campground with as rich of a history as the Knights themselves, albeit in very different ways.
The area in which Tournament is held has a legacy of tragedy, shame, and rebirth. However, it is a beautifully treed area with sweet air found only in serene wooded areas up north, untainted by pollution and over-crowding of metropolitan cities.
During the summer of 1894 Minnesota was suffering from a significant drought and high temperatures. Because of the dryness and heat fires were common in the woods. Debris left behind from loggers gave any small fire fuel to grow. On September 1, 1894 started out as another excruciatingly hot day with small fires all around and two major fires burning. The two fires met up to create a one huge fire. In all over 200,000 acres were burned and more than 400 lives lost that day.
After the bombing of Pearl Harbor, during World War II, Americans’ fears and prejudices ran rampant, especially against those of Japanese descent. There was an overwhelming concern that Japan was planning an invasion on United States’ soil. Americans with Japanese heritage living on the Pacific coastal area were rounded up and sent to “War Relocation Camps”, also known as internment camps. These camps were located all over the United States. One of which was located at the campgrounds that now host Tournament each year. This was not one of the government’s finest hour and it wasn’t until more than 40 years later before our government apologized for actions based on “race prejudice, war hysteria, and a failure of political leadership” and restitutions were given.
In more recent years the area in which Tournament is held has also had to contend with more forest fires and tornadoes that threaten to destroy the tranquil campground that has become so beloved by the Twin Cities Leather and Kink Community – not to mention those from other areas. Each time though, the campground perseveres and overcomes the obstacles thrown at it. It isn’t a far stretch to see the history of the area and that of the Knights of Leather have the same sense of perseverance through hard times and the ability to adapt and thrive.
The idea of the Knights of Leather was formed in a hospital room by the five founding members. It officially begin in 1984 as a women only Leather club. This was the only Leatherwomen only club in the Midwest at the time.
Though relations with the local Leathermen clubs started out cool at best the Knights were determined to be accepted. This was a dark time in Leather as AIDS was decimating Leathermen at an alarming rate. The Knights rallied alongside of their brothers, becoming a driving force in the Minnesota Leather Community, hosting AIDS fundraisers, going to homes of those affected with AIDS, etc. The presence of women in dungeons made the gay Leathermen uncomfortable but the Knights kept going, just respected the space. Over time their contribution towards the AIDS epidemic and their respect for their brothers gained them more acceptance in the Leather community. In the late 80’s they hosted their first run, Tournament, for their Leather sisters. This quickly became a popular event with their games, camaraderie, formal dinner, and of course decadence.
Sadly though, over time the membership became to dwindle as people moved out of the area or their lives took new routes. Eventually only two members, PJ Knight and her wife, Vicki, remained. After much reflection they approached their long time gay brothers for guidance, and in 2000 it was decided to make the club pansexual, open to all genders and orientations. Since then the club has grown and flourished.
This year marked the 25th Anniversary of Tournament. The Knights spared no expense at making this a most memorable, enjoyable, and sex-positive run. At the heart of the campground lies the Lodge, where meals were served and people congregated to socialize. The Knights, as well as volunteers, prepared most tasty meals on Friday night, Saturday morning, and Sunday morning. Saturday lunch and Saturday’s formal dinner were prepared by a wonderful catering couple and volunteers. Cabins were spread around the lodge where attendees stayed. There were also 5 different dungeon areas spread about the campgrounds that were available for use the entire time at camp. Giving enough space and options to accommodate everyone. The dungeons were equipped with the typical cleaning supplies and first aid kits, as well as condoms, in addition to the various pieces of furniture.
Friday morning and afternoon found the Knights and volunteers busily preparing the campgrounds for the weekend’s festivities, all the while braving the rain and chilly temperatures. Attendees – gay, lesbian, het, pansexual, etc. – started arriving around 3pm and onward into the evening. Run bags were handed out and special “dance cards” were given so that participants could get their weekend “conquests” to sign the cards, all so the Knights could tally up and determine who “Pig of the Run” was. Associates of the Knights hosted a cocktail party Friday night, whetting everyone’s pallets, which was followed by a tasty Mexican themed dinner prepared by the Knights.
The opening ceremonies consisted of congratulating the club for its 25th run and explaining the weekend, this was followed by a fireside Remembrance Ceremony. During the Remembrance Ceremony everyone was given flash paper to write the name(s) of those they wished to remember, then had the opportunity to tell everyone a bit about the person and why they are being remembered before tossing the papers into the fire. The Ceremony gave everyone the chance to remember those that had impacted our lives that could not be there to celebrate with us due to either death, distance, or any number of other reasons. Many tears were shed, but it brought everyone a bit closer to open up with those we trusted and felt a kinship with. Afterwards several people stayed around the fire sharing their stories while others wandered off to various dungeons and cabins to engage in debauchery. Screams, moans, giggles and all sorts of other sounds could be heard throughout the night.
Saturday morning everyone awoke to warmer temperatures and slowly started making their way to the lodge. Lifesaving coffee, hot water, milk, juices, fruits, cereals, and several homemade granolas options were spread out for everyone while the hot breakfast was being cooked. Classes began shortly after breakfast. There were 3 time slots with two different options each time to choose from. An array of classes that included Masterful Mindfucks, Thunder in the Dungeon: Tops Playing with Tops, and Sounds were offered by Master JLubeJack and the Leather Heart Clan, Blood Art: Beyond Temp Piercing was presented by Gav the Hunter, Master Michael and slave angie taught Slave Positions, Cait taught Rope Scenes for All, Kitty and croga presented Pet Play, while several seasoned members of the Twin City Leather community lead a round-table on their local community.
That night everyone met in the Lodge for the formal dinner. Before dinner the ATONS hosted another cocktail party. Attendees decked out in their best leathers, formal wear, or a combination of the two. There was a Parade of Colors beforehand where the Knights of Leather marched the Leather Pride Flag and their colors and other clubs such as Min-KY, Chicago Leather Club, ATONS, Leather Heart Clan, and MAsT – to name a few – proudly marched their colors around the lodge. The catered dinner was by far one of the best with salad, bread, green beans cooked to perfection, beef bourguignon, mashed potatoes, and a squash ravioli for the vegetarians, followed by a wonderfully decorated cake.
After dinner special announcements were made, including the ATONS officially making Tournament their required yearly run and presenting the Knights with their Club Colors, solidifying a long standing friendship and brother/sisterhood between the two clubs. The Knights of Leather, along with help from other members of the community were able to surprise David, aka. Jazz Thomas, International Mr. Olympus Leather 2002, by awarding him his Master’s Cover for his long time devotion and service to the community. For all that attended it was truly an honor to be able to share in such an auspicious occasion. People then went their separate ways to enjoy the evening. One Knight announced she was hosting a gangbang in one of the dungeon, further illuminating the sex-positive view the Knights take of the run. A little later a sexy Leatherman walked into the Lodge with various floggers draped over his shoulders saying “Tick, tock, tick, tock, who’s next? Tick, tock, tick, tock, I need to be in bed by 8!”.It was about 10:30pm at the time! A very eager and happy boy jumped up to take his turn and the two departed to get up to some mischief!
Sunday brunch was bittersweet as all knew the end of a wonderful weekend was approaching. Many conversations went on in the Lodge while people enjoyed another wonderful breakfast. In addition to coffee, hot water, milk, juices, fruits, cereals, and several homemade granolas options the Knights also prepared decadently delicious stuffed French toast with a berry sauce and breakfast casseroles. Finally words and awards were given out, including a most deserving Pig of the Run, final thanks and parting words. And before long it was time to pack up and leave, each attendee taking with them memories that’ll last a lifetime. The play, sex, and classes were incredible, but the most heartening part of the weekend was the people, the camaraderie. No matter one’s gender or sexual persuasion, everyone got along and truly enjoyed each other’s company, be it in conversation, or more decedent ways.
Leather Heart Clan