Metro Weekly

7 Things to Know About Mid-Atlantic Leather Weekend

Planning to attend this year's MAL? Here are seven essential things you should be aware of ahead of 2023's event.

Mid Atlantic Leather Weekend
Mid Atlantic Leather Weekend

Mid-Atlantic Leather Weekend is back in full, roaring force this year, starting Friday, January 13, and running through Sunday, January 15. If you’re thinking of attending, we’ve put together a helpful list of everything you need to know before you go.

1. You Will Need a Day Pass to Gain Entry to the Host Hotel — and It Will Only Take You So Far

With full weekend packages for the popular leather, fetish, and kink event having sold out nearly a year ago, those wishing to gain admittance to the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, at 400 New Jersey Ave. NW, will have to purchase a one-, two- or three-day pass by 10 p.m. on Friday, 6 p.m. on Saturday, or 5 p.m. on Sunday. After those times, Centaur MC, the group that organizes and runs Mid-Atlantic Leather Weekend, will stop sales of day passes for the evening. No one will be admitted to the hotel without a weekend pass or a day pass.

Single day passes, which take the form of a colored wristband, cost $15 each and will be sold inside the entrance of the Hyatt. A day pass allows the buyer to access the hotel lobby and the exhibit hall, but not events like Saturday’s “Leather Cocktails,” a more formal reception, the Sunday brunch, or the Mr. Mid-Atlantic Leather Contest on Sunday afternoon. Those without weekend passes can purchase a ticket for the contest for $35 at the Centaur Store, in Capitol Ballroom A.

Attendees must show a picture ID providing proof that they are over age 21 to enter the Hyatt. There will be a coat check in the hotel lobby to the left of the main bar.

“We will be monitoring the elevators, and you’d have to be a registered guest (or a guest to go up to the guest room floors at a certain time,” notes Patrick Grady, a member of Centaur MC and former longtime chairman of the weekend.

Grady also noted that there will be one elevator on either side of the lobby that will not be available for use, so guests will have to be willing to wait for an elevator to open up.

“Historically, we also have lines for elevators for guests trying to get up to their rooms,” Grady says. “So having patience is good.”

Mid-Atlantic Leather Marketplace — Photo: Randy Shulman

2. The Exhibit Hall Will Return to Its Full Glory

A regular staple of Mid-Atlantic Leather weekend is the exhibit hall, featuring the event’s famous “Leather Mart,” an L-shaped portioned-off section of the hotel’s ballroom level where vendors sell their wares. While last year’s exhibit hall featured only a handful of vendors, this year, more than two dozen will be in attendance, seeking to move merchandise ranging from harnesses to wrestling singlets to jockstraps to puppy masks and leather accessories, like hats, gloves, or boots.

“We’ve got some new exhibitors, we’ve got some old exhibitors, people that we haven’t seen in a couple of years, coming with their beautiful leathers or gear,” says Grady. “Northbound from Canada is coming, and they have some beautiful leather. Rubio Leather from New York will be there. And Mr. S from California brings neoprene and sports gear. There’s a couple of T-shirt companies that sell great T-shirts. And there’s all types of leather gear. Whatever you’re looking for, there’s something there. There’s a little bit of everything for people to come see or purchase.”

The exhibit hall will also feature bootblacks polishing attendees’s boots and leather. Tom Buckley, the vice president of Centaur MC, says that bootblacks are asked to donate a portion of their tips to the Mr. MAL titleholder’s travel fund, which helps the eventual winner defray the costs of traveling around to various leather or Pride-themed events. A portion of the proceeds will also go to a charity chosen by the bootblacks themselves.

“Bootblacks during MAL weekend are there to make you look good. That’s the bottom line,” says Buckley. “There are bootblacks that enjoy the service component of the weekend. There are others out there who enjoy being in the stand. And there are some out there that have a boot fetish that just enjoy taking care of the boots as part of that fetish.”

3. There Will Be No Dance Parties in the Hotel

This year, the only evening event that will be held at the hotel is the Mr. International Rubber Cocktail Party in the Congressional Ballroom A and B from 7 to 10 p.m. on Friday. Admission is reserved only for those who previously purchased the full MAL weekend package.

Otherwise, attendees seeking to let their hair down and jam out to sets from DJs will have to venture elsewhere. This year, Kinetic Productions, which has partnered with Centaur MC, will be hosting four separate nightly parties, beginning with BOOTCAMP, featuring DJs J Warren and Conner Curnick and Onlyfans superstar Diego Barros, on Thursday, Jan. 12 at Soundcheck and ending on Sunday, Jan. 15, with “discoVers XL,” at Ultrabar, featuring DJs Abel and Alexis Tucci. Tickets for each dance party are sold separately and are available for purchase online.

Puppy Mosh at MAL — Photo: Randy Shulman

4. The Popular Puppy Mosh is Back!

The annual Puppy Park, scheduled from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 14, has become a mainstay of MAL Weekend. For two hours, one of the Hyatt’s ballrooms transforms into a mosh pit where human “pups” can scamper about, frolic, and play with toys or other pups.

“This is the 15th anniversary of the Puppy Park at MAL,” notes Buckley. “We work with the club to make sure that we are doing everything in the best interest of the weekend. Everybody wants to get down and play and have fun, and we try to provide that environment for the puppies.”

Buckley adds that he believes the Puppy Park has managed to last for so long due to effective management by organizers.

“We have several rules and we teach everybody to be respectful, but we also try to have as much fun as we can,” Buckley says. “We do have a surprise that we throw out the middle of the mosh every year” — usually a special “guest” like a mailman, a dog catcher, Cruella de Vil, a cat or a squirrel, or a gimmick like releasing a bunch of balls into the puppy mosh — that set off the pups and allow them to let loose.

“I think what keeps people coming back every year is we don’t do the same thing,” Buckley says. “We have a nice space for the mosh, and put in safety precautions. We provide mats for the pups to be on to protect their knees and wrists and hands. We provide water, toys, music, and we have First Aid on hand. We try to provide all we can to keep the energy going throughout the mosh.”

5. There Will Be No Kink Demonstrations This Year

In past years, attendees of Mid-Atlantic Leather Weekend have served as spectators, watching local kink groups like SigMa do various demonstrations showcasing various fetishes, including suspension, ropes, e-stim, flogging, spanking, and even mummification.

The demonstrations have typically been informational and instructional, trying to teach those curious about various fetishes on how to engage in kink play without endangering or harming others. But this year, there will be no demonstrations, meaning attendees will have to find other activities to amuse themselves on Saturday after the Puppy Park has finished.

6. Onyx Will Host its Annual Fashion Show on Saturday Afternoon

Every year, Onyx Mid-Atlantic, the D.C.-based leather fraternity for GBT men of color, hosts a fashion show in one of the hotel’s ballrooms. This year, the show will be held in Congressional Ballroom A and B and will last from 2 to 6 p.m. The show will feature models strutting down the runway, showing off various leather and fetish gear.

7. Attendees Should Be Polite and Courteous, But Should Also Take Time to Explore and Ask Questions

“Above all, MAL is a weekend of camaraderie, a chance to return and see old friends,” says Grady. “You should come, explore, ask questions, and take in the weekend. The lobby of the Hyatt Regency transforms into one of the largest bars on the East Coast. It can seem overwhelming at times, but it’s a lot of people from all walks of life, of all shapes, sizes, and interests. There’s a niche for everyone, something for everybody. Even if someone’s just on the fringe of being interested in leather, MAL Weekend provides a safe space where people can explore the scene and have fun.”

Grady recounts how when he first began attending leather events, he was not really involved in the scene, and was dubbed the “suit guy” for wearing his work attire to events. But he never felt out of place.

“I always felt welcome, even if I didn’t have that leather look at that time. But you grow into it,” he says. “People come to the Hyatt to see old friends and some of the Hyatt staff they’ve met over the years, they come to have a cocktail or some food, and they come for the Mr. MAL Contest. We’ll have a bunch of former Mr. Mid-Atlantic leather titleholders coming as well. So it’s like a family homecoming.”

Grady also notes that MAL weekend is not just limited to gay cisgender men.

“We do have women coming to our events, and trans folk, so everybody is truly welcome,” he says. “The crowd spans all demographics. We just ask everybody to be nice, polite, patient and enjoy the weekend. Leave the drama back at home, because we don’t need drama in our community. We want people to feel welcome.”

Mid-Atlantic Leather Weekend runs from Jan. 13 to 15 at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, located at 400 New Jersey Ave. NW.

Day passes are available for purchase, costing $15 for a one-day pass, $30 for a two-day pass, and $40 for a three-day pass.

For more information and a complete schedule of weekend events, visit www.leatherweekend.com.

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