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IML turns 40, welcomes leather community to Chicago

Chicago, IL — International Mr. Leather opens Thursday welcoming the leather and fetish world to Chicago this Memorial Day weekend.

Now in its 40th year, IML draws nearly 20,000 attendees to downtown Chicago for a celebration of everything leather and fetish. The five days of non-stop events will be hosted for a fourth year at the Congress Plaza Hotel, 520 S. Michigan Ave.

IML weekend is filled with conventions, workshops, and parties all celebrating a shared love of leather, rubber, sports gear, pup play, and much more. All the events are organized around the annual competition to crown International Mr. Leather as well as the 26th annual International Mr. Bootblack competition.

IML events start on Thursday, May 24 with Opening Ceremonies, which includes the introduction of contestants and judges, at Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University, 50 E. Congress Parkway, from 8:00-10:30 p.m. The Pecs and Personality event, where 72 hopefuls will strut their stuff to show off their physiques, stage presence and public speaking abilities, is Saturday, May 26 beginning at 8 p.m. Contestants reconvene on Sunday, May 27 for the International Mr. Leather Contest at 6 p.m.

All these events aside, however, nothing says IML like the popular Leather Market, hosted again this year at the Congress Plaza Hotel between two enormous convention halls. Featuring over 120 vendors from across the U.S., the Market offers an amazing assortment of leather and fetish goods and an even more amazing opportunity for people watching. Those not holding an IML weekend pass will need a Day Pass to enter, with the $15 donation going to Chicago's Leather Archives and Museum. The Leather Market opens at 11 a.m. during the weekend, closing at 7 p.m. on Saturday, 5 p.m. on Sunday, and 4 p.m. on Monday.

Two of the weekend's biggest and most highly anticipated events are the Victory Party and Black and Blue Ball, the annual circuit-type parties that bring contestants, winners, and IML revelers together to shake, sweat and dance it out.

After the new International Mr. Leather is crowned on Sunday, the crowd will flock, per tradition, to the House of Blues, 329 N Dearborn, for the Victory Party featuring DJs Tony Moran and and Morabito. The favorite IML closing event, Black & Blue Ball, finds a new home this year at House of Blues, on Monday, May 28, featuring DJs Karsten Sollors and Tom Stephan.

Related: DJ Karsten Sollors brings his unique sounds to IML weekend parties 

Remembering Chuck Renslow, 1929 - 2017

IML began as the Mr. Gold Coast bar contest held at the Gold Coast, a long-shuttered gay leather bar owned by Chuck Renslow, a Chicago businessman and newspaper publisher. The contest became so popular it was relocated it to a larger venue in 1979 and renamed International Mr. Leather. The International Mr. Bootblack Competition was added in 1993.

Renslow, best known as the founder of the International Mr. Leather contest and the Leather Museum and Archives, died June 29, 2017 at age 87.

The life and legacy of Renslow will be remembered with exhibition of materials from the Leather Archives & Museum titled Chuck Renslow: A Legacy of Leather on display throughout the weekend at the Congress Hotel, including a guest book for visitors to sign.

IML organizers plan a special tribute to the life and accomplishments of Renslow at the contest Sunday evening.

Related: Chicago street renamed in honor of IML founder Chuck Renslow

2018 International Mr. Leather weekend events
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