Before Obama, DC Welcomes Leather Fetishists

Thousands of tourists pouring into Washington, D.C. for President-elect Barack Obama's inauguration will be sharing the nation's capital with a few thousand predominantly gay leather fetishists, in town for their annual convention.

Next January 16th, 17th and 18th brings the 25th annual Mid-Atlantic Leather Weekend to Washington, D.C. Hosted by the city's Centaur Motorcycle Club, "a group of men with an enthusiastic interest in motorcycles, leather and other men," the event is expected to draw between 2,000 and 3,000 attendees, according to spokesman Larry Barat.

Obama's swearing-in on Tuesday, Jan. 20, is expected to draw between 500,000 to four million people. Many will likely arrive the weekend prior to sightsee and attend inaugural balls and other parties.

Leather Weekend attendees wearing their gear in public may provide visitors in town for the inauguration with something to talk about back at their hotel, but in general inauguration planners say they don't expect the overlap to be an issue.

A spokeswoman for Obama said the president-elect would probably not attend any of the Leather Weekend events. "Let's just say it's likely the president-elect will be occupied with many other activities" surrounding the inauguration, said Linda Douglass.

The crowd for Leather Weekend 2009 is expected to be smaller than in years past because inaugural attendees snapped up so many of the city's hotel rooms, according to Barat, the function's spokesman. "Had we known it was going to be such a busy weekend, we might have scheduled otherwise," he said.

"Certainly many of our guests are happy about the inauguration and some people will be attending both," said Barat, "but for us we're celebrating what we normally celebrate – the leather community, and our [motorcycle] club, and the anniversary."

Obama's inauguration is expected to draw a wide cross-section of America to Washington, and Leather Weekend is no different.

"We get a pretty broad range of people coming," explained Barat. "Some are into leather, some are into denim, some are into rubber. Some skinheads, some bikers – recently we've gotten young guys wearing sports gear and fantasy gear, [like] full football uniforms, baseball uniforms. Pretty much the whole gamut."

Lavish Inauguration Parties Planned in Washington

Although the inauguration is Tuesday, lavish inaugural balls will be held throughout the weekend leading up to the swearing-in. This year, fancy inaugural parties thrown by Verizon, the National Association of Minority Government Contractors and others will be Saturday night alongside Leather Weekend's gala event, Leather Cocktails.

That party brings together about 1,000 leather aficianados "in their best leathers" for drinks and appetizers downtown, Barat explained.

Though Obama may not appear, other politicans have joined in the leather-lovers' fun. "I have participated in the past" and may attend this year's bash, said D.C. Councilmember Jim Graham. He noted he is "not a member of the leather community as such."

"I think that this event contributes to the rich diversity of the capital," said Graham, speaking about Leather Weekend. "We've welcomed them here many times, and we welcome them again. In my mind it's a positive gathering of people."

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