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International Mr. Leather Expo Opens Thursday

International Mr. Leather Expo Opens Thursday

Leathermen from around the world will congregate once again in Chicago over Memorial Day weekend for the 28th Annual International Mr. Leather Competition and other IML events.

IML has been a Chicago tradition since 1979 when 400 gay leathermen gathered there for the first contest. Since then the event has grown, attracting more than 15,000 attendees last year.

This year's contest will take place Sunday, May 29, at the Chicago Theatre, 175 N. State St., at 5 p.m. Doors to the event will open at 4:00. Comedian and entertainer Bruce Vilanch is the headline entertainment.

The IML opening ceremonies — the introduction of contestants and judges, drawing for contestant numbers, and unveiling of the IML 2006 flag — will kick off the weekend at 9 p.m. on Thursday in the Palmer House Hilton Grand Ballroom. Doors open at 8.

After its unveiling, the 2006 IML flag will be displayed at the Leather Archives booth throughout the weekend for all IML attendees to sign. After the Closing Ceremonies the flag will go on permanent display at Chicago’s Leather Archives and Museum.

The Leather Market — an international collection of leather and fetish vendors from all genres — opens Friday, May 26, at noon and runs daily till Monday at the Palmer House Hilton exhibit halls. More than 100 vendors have taken booths at the Leather Market. A complete list is available at IMrL.com.

Friday through Sunday is the 14th Annual International Mr. Bootblack Competition. Contestants will be put through their paces for three days at the Palmer House Hilton Leather Market. The winner will be announced at the IML contest on Sunday.

Other IML events include the Pecs & Personality physique competition, at 9 p.m. Saturday; Salute! (the IML closing ceremonies), the introduction of 2006's winners, the Parade of Colors, and winners-signing of the IML flag at 11 p.m. Sunday in the Palmer House Hilton Grand Ballroom; IML Victory Celebration Party on Sunday after the IML Contest until 4 a.m. at House of Blues, 329 N. Dearborn; and the Black and Blue Ball, the traditional IML final celebration, from 8 p.m. to 4 a.m. on Monday, May 29 at Excalibur, 632 N. Dearborn St.

The IML organizers are inviting all leather clubs and organizations to participate in the Parade of Colors at the IML closing ceremonies. Club representatives must sign up at the IML registration desk by 4 p.m. on Sunday.

International Mr. Leather contestants are judged on a variety of criteria including community involvement, speech, presentation, and overall presence.

The 2006 International Mr. Leather Judges include: Michael Egdes (Ft. Lauderdale), Larry Barat (Washington, D.C.), Michael Congdon (Seattle), Mark Frazier (Dallas), Mike “Stallion” Fry (Dallas), Kendra McClain (Indianapolis) Bob Miller (Chicago), Matthias Peuser (Arnhem, The Netherlands), and Jayne Schmid (Ontario, Canada).

Tickets to individual IML events are available at BoxOfficeTickets.com and will be sold at the Palmer House Hilton throughout IML Weekend. Single tickets to the IML Victory Celebration Party are only available through the House of Blues, 312-923-2000.

For further information on International Mr. Leather 2006 visit the official IML website, IMrL.com.

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Peter Johnson

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