By Stella Harris
Like so many things in life, KinkFest is what you make of it. With three days of classes and two dungeon parties, there are almost infinite possibilities. The downside of that is that it can be easy to get overwhelmed. Like any conference or retreat, it’s best to go in with an idea of the top few things you want to see or try, rather than trying to do it all. And this isn’t just any KinkFest, this is the 20th anniversary of KinkFest, and they’ve make sure to get some big names on the lineup.
So what highlight should you be sure to catch? Well for starters, if you’re new to this kind of event, try to catch the Dungeon Etiquette and Orientation first thing on Friday. I say this not only because I’m the one teaching the class but because every party, event, and venue has its own rules and culture and it’s really helpful to make sure you’re on the same page before you commit a dungeon faux pas.
Next up for the newcomers is a class about pick-up play by Shay & Stefanos. Classes by this dynamic teaching duo are always fantastic, and this class will be full of information to help you have safe and fun play during the weekend — especially if you haven’t made plans in advance.
As for the rest of the weekend there are lots of fun and interesting options. It really depends on where your interests lie. Of special note are the classes and talks by Lee Harrington that delve deeply into gender identity and orientation. Lee has a fabulous voice and perspective that’s well worth checking out. Also, for the first time in many years Midori is teaching in Portland. Try to hit at least one of her classes as it might be a while before she comes back this way.
To make the most of the weekend, plan enough down time and snack breaks that you don’t wear yourself out. Self care is always important but becomes especially so when you’re sharing space with 1,500 other people.
Friday and Saturday night there are dungeon parties in the 36,000 sf play space the KinkFest crew has created in the expo center. There’s truly something for everyone. I like to make several circuits around the space to simply watch everything that’s going on. Because KinkFest is so large, you’ll see kinds of play, and combinations of people, that aren’t often seen throughout the year at smaller parties. Because of the size of the space a wide variety of interest groups and kink cliques come together to share space, and it can be valuable to simply witness things you might never want to participate in yourself.
If you’re planning to play be sure to bring along your own essential supplies. Although some safety and cleaning supplies will be available, you can never count of finding gloves (or gloves in your size) let alone lube or any other personal favorites. Also, be sure to bring a blanket or towel to place between yourself and the play surfaces. Not only is this a party rule, it’s also just good sense.
No phones or photos are allowed in the dungeon so you don’t have to worry about privacy. But if you do want to capture the magnificence of the look you put together for the event, there is a photographer in a side room where you can sign a waiver and pay for shots to commemorate your evening. Like prom, but kinkier.
Don’t forget to plan some time to take care of yourself after the event. Con drop is real, even if you don’t play, and reentry into the world can be harsh. If you can take a day off, do it. But either way, plan for some extra sleep, snacks, and water. And if possible plan some time with friends or partners for some cuddling and decompression in the days following the event.
If you’re on FetLife, check out the hook-up thread to line up some play before the event and look out for the thread after the event that will help people find each other after the weekend is over.