It’s just over a week until Victoria’s festival of fur sees the migration of hairy creatures to Melbourne.

Southern Hibearnation is going to heat up the dancefloors with hundreds of men from June 12 – 19, with cruises, club nights and kooky events aplenty.

After conducting surveys at the conclusion of last year’s festival, the VicBears organising committee tailored 2011 to include more venues and events based on the feedback, without losing the drawcard nights.

The crowd-pleasing staples like UnderBear will be back featuring pumping DJs such as cub cutie Kam Shafaati and George Roussos. You can expect it will be filled to the brim with the sexiest Bears this fine country has to offer, all dressed down to their briefs, boxers, jocks, G-strings and jockstraps.

VicBears vice president Luke Mitchell said the events team was trying to alter the vibe a little with this year’s event.

“We’re trying to move Underbear a little bit away from that ‘stand around and have a drink’ type of mood to more of a dance party,” he said. “In getting two awesome, internationally recognised DJs to provide some tunes, we hope it’s going to change the atmosphere to more of that type of event.”

Organisers hope partygoers will get creative with their choice of Bear undergarment — the old Y-fronts certain to be outshone by other efforts.

“We’ve seen some people rock up in longjohns in the past, which was quite funny. Basically we love people to be original,” Mitchell said.

“Tighty whities are great, but being creative will really get you noticed. I can recommend the jockstrap as one item that will definitely get you attention.”

Mr Australasia Bear, which always sees the Laird Hotel reach capacity, is also back.

While the competition is ultimately all a bit of fun, last year’s winner, Craig Bascand, said the qualities of a Mr Australasia Bear sum up what he loves about Melbourne’s Bear community, and what make it a great community to be a part of.

“[It’s] someone who’s got a down-to-earth attitude and is confident in who they are, no matter what they look like,” he said.

Although he doesn’t have to think about how to impress the judges in this year’s competition, Bascand has other important decisions to make.

“The biggest thing I have to work out this year is whether I’m going to wear aussieBums or a jockstrap on Underbear night.”

The biggest change to the events line-up this year is the inclusion of a popular Laird event, Bearaoke, which has previously been separate from the festival of fur. The Thursday karaoke night will see burly blokes and hair-covered crooners take to the Laird’s stage and belt out some tunes.

After a year in the docks, Southern Hibearnation’s annual cruise is also returning, as Bears on the Bay sees the Bears of Melbourne and beyond take to the river.

VicBears event coordinator Rob Camm explained the event is a low-key affair.

“It’s a really nice social catch-up with buddies type, relaxed afternoon event,” Camm said.

“We haven’t done it for a couple of years — last year we had a big film event so we didn’t go out cruising — but we’re back this year. The cruise is from Docklands, then the boat goes over to Williamstown and out to the bay.”

He said the event is particularly popular with those from interstate and overseas as the cruise is a great opportunity to see Melbourne’s scenery.

One of those interstate visitors this year is Harbour City Bear (and alter ego of DJ Puppy) Chris Smyth, who makes the regular journey south. He said coming down for the festival was a no-brainer.

“Jumping on a flight is so easy, the people are so friendly. It’s the perfect escape from the craziness of Sydney,” he said.

“As well as catching up with old friends, the music and the food are the real enticements for me.”

info: Southern Hibearnation takes place from June 12 – 19. For full event information and bookings, visit www.southernhibearnation.com

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