Saturday, December 16, 2017
News Roundup

Fetish Con finds acceptance in hip, trendy St. Petersburg

ST. PETERSBURG

Murdoch Tremblay recently made the 29-hour drive from Kansas to Florida for what he calls his annual family reunion.

Not his actual family, but an extended family of thousands who gather each year at Fetish Con, united by their enjoyment of costumes, role-playing and tying each other up.

The 48-year-old, who goes by the alias "Tater Salad," has only missed Fetish Con once since attending his first in 2004. He's a rope guy — bringing a travel bag filled with dozens of handmade ropes of all colors, widths and lengths for bondage.

"Everyone's got their kink," he said. "Everyone here accepts that."

So, too, has Fetish Con found acceptance in St. Petersburg.

The city's days as "God's waiting room" are far behind it. Modern-day St. Petersburg is enjoying its moment as a trendy destination for a hipper crowd thanks to a revitalized downtown, its craft beer and culinary options and its eclectic arts and cultural scene.

But no event may capture St. Petersburg's new spirit quite like Fetish Con.

Co-founder Sara Edwards, a city resident, said the convention has found a great match in its third year in the Sunshine City.

"It's definitely gotten more trendy and a little bit younger attitude," she said.

About 8,000 are expected to attend the four-day convention, which bills itself as the largest fetish networking and trade show on the East Coast. The event started in New York City in 2001, spent a decade in Tampa, then moved to the Hilton St. Petersburg Bayfront in 2015.

Longtime Fetish Con vendor Lew Rubens said St. Petersburg is one of these "beautiful" melting pots where people are now more open to different ways of life.

The 60-year-old sells bondage lessons and equipment for his business, the Lewbari Store. He previously hid his own bondage fetish, believing it to be taboo, but began to embrace it in his 40s.

"Things change, people change, politics change," he said, "but I love it every day."

Attitudes toward fetishes have also shifted, Edwards said, thanks primarily to the success of the 2011 novel Fifty Shades of Grey, which spawned two more books and a film trilogy.

Fifty Shades of Grey put fetish in every housewife's hands," she said. "That really changed the playing field for more of an acceptance."

Fetish Con has something to offer to new and experienced practitioners alike. There's live shows, late-night pool parties, a fetish dungeon and a wide range of class offerings. There are more than 50 classes this weekend, the most ever for the convention. Some will run as long as eight hours.

The classes vary from learning how to run a business (2257: The Federal Record-Keeping Statute) to lifestyle (Men in Skirts: A Beginner's Guide to Crossdressing) to safety (Empowering Women to Protect Your Consent).

"So many times, so many people feel they are on the fringe and they don't fit anywhere and don't belong anywhere," Edwards said. "Fetish Con is accepting of anything safe, sane and consensual."

She said every hotel that has taken on the convention showed initial hesitation. Then hotel management becomes more comfortable with Fetish Con, she said. There are strict rules in place. The event is only for those 18 and older, and there's a strict no-nudity policy.

"We don't destroy anything," Edwards said. "It's all adults, not rowdy partiers."

She said once the hotels get over the "first initial shock of the show" they keep asking them to return. But when the management changed at the event's old hotel in Tampa, Fetish Con relocated to St. Petersburg.

Tremblay said the first time he went was a "little nerve-racking." That was until he realized he was accepted for who he was there and felt comfortable. He kept coming back, and now knows hundreds there — that's why it's his "big family reunion."

Rubens said Fetish Con is a bit more restrained than some might believe.

"It's not the smoke-filled, dark, seedy nightclub people think it is," he said.

     
Comments
Firefighters injured after early-morning blaze at Tampa strip mall

Firefighters injured after early-morning blaze at Tampa strip mall

TAMPA — Three firefighters were injured early Saturday morning battling a fire at a W Waters Avenue strip mall, according to Tampa Fire Rescue.Firefighters said the two-alarm blaze started in the attic of L.A. Nail Supply at 2:45 a.m. The store is in...
Updated: 9 minutes ago
CDC gets list of forbidden words: ‘fetus,’ ‘transgender,’ ‘evidence-based’

CDC gets list of forbidden words: ‘fetus,’ ‘transgender,’ ‘evidence-based’

Trump administration officials are forbidding officials at the nation’s top public health agency from using a list of seven words or phrases - including "fetus" and "transgender" - in any official documents being prepared for next year’s budget.Polic...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Rays’ trade silence likely a short-lived phenomenon

Rays’ trade silence likely a short-lived phenomenon

LAKE BUENA VISTA — There were a lot of reasons the Rays didn’t start the process of trading some of their bigger-name, higher-paid players at last week’s winter meetings.Most obvious was them not finding the just-right deal to move closer Alex Colome...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Jones: Tony Dungy didn’t leave the Bucs on the clearance rack

Jones: Tony Dungy didn’t leave the Bucs on the clearance rack

It is and always will be the greatest debate in Tampa Bay sports history.Jon Gruden or Tony Dungy?You don’t even need to say anything more than that. Bucs fans already know what you’re talking about.Gruden or Dungy?Who was most responsible for the on...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Jon Gruden or Tony Dungy? Why the debate rages on

Jon Gruden or Tony Dungy? Why the debate rages on

TAMPA — Bucs coach Jon Gruden did not win the Super Bowl with Tony Dungy’s team. Don’t believe me? Ask Dungy. "It wasn’t. They did a great job. They took it and tweaked it," Dungy said. "The same way I got a great (Colts) tea...
Updated: 3 hours ago
She was about to celebrate her 94th birthday — and ended up in the back of a police car

She was about to celebrate her 94th birthday — and ended up in the back of a police car

Two days before her 94th birthday, Juanita Fitzgerald was arrested and hauled off to jail.The Eustis woman’s crime?She was being evicted and had fallen behind on her rent, WFTV 9 News reported. Instead of vacating her home at the National Church Resi...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Female congressional candidate leaves race after sexual harassment allegations resurface

Female congressional candidate leaves race after sexual harassment allegations resurface

A Democratic candidate hoping to flip a hotly contested congressional seat in Kansas has dropped out of the race after allegations that she sexually harassed a male subordinate resurfaced amid her campaign.Andrea Ramsey, 57, who was running to unseat...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Forecast: Weekend brings sunny skies and warmer temperatures

Forecast: Weekend brings sunny skies and warmer temperatures

After a cold front across Tampa Bay, temperatures are on the rise this weekend, said WTSP 10Weather meteorologist Ric Kearbey.href="http://www.tampabay.com/specials/2015/graphics/macros/css/base.css"> 10News WTSPThe latest Tampa Bay-ar...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Q&A with Syracuse coach Benoit Groulx about the Lightning’s next generation

Q&A with Syracuse coach Benoit Groulx about the Lightning’s next generation

DENVER — There might be one team in hockey hotter than the Lightning.It is Tampa Bay’s AHL affiliate, Syracuse.The Crunch had won nine straight heading into Friday’s game against Providence. Why is this important? While the AHL is a developmental lea...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Staff writers pick sides (kind of) in the Dungy-Gruden debate

Staff writers pick sides (kind of) in the Dungy-Gruden debate

Even with — perhaps especially with —Jon Gruden set to be inducted into the Bucs Ring of Honor Monday night, Tampa Bay’s Great Sports Debate hasn’t abated. Who deserves more credit for the biggest moment in Tampa Bay sports history — the Bucs’ Super ...
Published: 12/16/17