As local lore has it, the proprietors of Provincetown, Mass., love ''Bear Week.'' These are, after all, men who love to eat, drink and be merry – not tourists who avoid food, bars and everything else that comes with a tourist-town price tag.
As Stephen Lambeth puts it: ''Dance, eat, drink, sleep, repeat. It's got everything you need for a vacation: bars, shows, whale watching, boating, beaches, shopping, ice cream, tea dances….''
Lambeth ought to know. The New Jersey-based bear has been a loyal Bear Week attendee for nearly a decade, and now maintains the Bear Week group page on Facebook. And when it comes to events, Provincetown offers plenty more than lounging by the pool or dipping your toes in the Atlantic. As Lambeth mentioned, P'town has shows – an oddly rich variety of them for a town its size.
This summer, for example, you might take in Kate Clinton one night, Audra McDonald the next, then Miss Richfield 1981 or Joey Arias & Raven O. And that's just taking in the tip of the iceberg. The week's hosts, the Provincetown Bears, detail all the shows, accommodations, dances, tickets and more at ptownbears.org.
At this point, it will already be tough to find accommodation for the week, running July 13 to 21, though certainly not impossible, Lambeth assures. He's regularly scouring the P'town offerings to post updated availability for his Facebook group. But while he's sure there's still room at the inns, that may not hold for the entire week, forcing some Bear Week wannabes to split their time at different locations.
This likely isn't a concern for the initiated, who often reserve the following year just as they're packing up to head home at the end of a Bear Week. But for those newbies just now making their way, Lambeth – sort of the unofficial mayor of P'town during Bear Week – has plenty of advice to offer. For example, ask Washingtonians how they get to Provincetown and you'll usually hear details about flying to Boston, then heading to Boston Harbor to catch the ''Fast Ferry'' for the 90-minute ride to Provincetown. A few will go the whole way by air, transferring in Boston to Cape Air for the half-hour flight.
Lambeth's advises a different route.
''For D.C. folks, I suggest flying to Providence (R.I.) and driving up the cape. It's probably cheaper or equal,'' to making the trip via Boston, he says, comparing the ferry or second flight to the week's car rental. ''It's a very pretty drive along the south coast of Massachusetts. And a car is good for side-trips.''
The practical aside, Lambeth is more excited about offering tips on just having fun.
''Don't miss the tea dance at Boatslip Resort,'' he insists. ''You should do it at least twice – or three times. Go to Spiritus Pizza at least once after the bars close – that's a ritual. Our early afternoon ritual is to go to the pool bar at Crown & Anchor. If you're up to it, climb the tower at least once.''
Lambeth has one ritual, however, that's really all his own: ''My favorite thing to do my first day there is to walk down Commercial Street and 'belly bump' someone I don't know.'' He follows that with a bloody mary and the tone for the week is set.
While Lambeth is dreaming of his Provincetown Bear Week to come, Lee Castillo is busy pinning down the final details to the new Bear Week on the block, Ogunquit Bear Week, presented by Ogunquit Maine Bears, making its debut July 6 to 13.
''It's really beautiful, very gay-friendly. The beach is easily accessible. It's just amazing. And it's so much less expensive than Provincetown. I was surprised there wasn't already an event,'' says Castillo, who lives in Alexandria. ''While I was there on vacation, I met some of the guys there, bears, and I pitched this idea to them.''
Thanks to Castillo's effort – and the efforts of his Bear Week recruits – the week is shaping up nicely, anchored at the Admiral's Inn Resort, and with a full slate of events.
''It's going to be a lot of fun. Tom Goss is going to be performing. There will be a Bearracuda event, a Growl'r event,'' Castillo shares. Notably, if you miss D.C. hometown favorite Goss in Ogunquit, you can catch him the following week performing for the bears in P'town.
As with Provincetown, getting to Ogunquit requires a bit more planning than hoping a plane from Point A to Point B. Castillo recommends flying into either Boston or Portland, Maine, and renting a car for the drive to Ogunquit, about an hour.
However the bears and bear lovers make it to Ogunquit, Castillo is determined to make this new bear week a success.
''This event is my baby,'' he says. ''I want the people of Ogunquit to be successful. These are wonderful people who worked their butts off to get marriage equality in Maine [in late 2012]. They are looking forward to this week being a celebration of that. And what a great way to show off their town.''
For more information about Provincetown Bear Week, visit ptownbears.org. For Ogunquit Bear Week, visit ogunquitbears.org.