On July 24th, I attended had a massive picnic meetup in the heart of the city. It was heavily advertised in the Chicago-area communities and those of Wisconsin, so the turnout was really amazing! So many people were there; it was astounding! I saw lots of friends, including some I hadn’t seen in quite a while, and saw a few new faces, too~ ♥ I spent quite a bit of time fending off public park officials who seemed certain that we were some kind of group likely to start performing or somehow otherwise disobeying park rules just because there were so many girls dressed oddly gathered in one place.
We met at Millennium Park, near the Cloud Gate sculpture (aka: the bean), where we briefly introduced each other with our names and locations. After assessing that most of the group had arrived, we then headed across the street to a more secluded area for the actual picnic. It was nice to be out of the sun, as that weekend was one of the hottest weekends of the summer, and even nicer to be away from prying eyes. Everyone spread out their picnic blankets on the grass like a giant quilt, then started to arrange everyone’s dishes.
I had a lot of fun wandering around and trying to talk to everyone. There were brief introductions before heading to the picnic area, but I didn’t really managed to remember most of it. I’m really terrible with names, so I knew I’d never learn over thirty people’s names just from hearing it once. It was almost overwhelming to see so many people, though! I couldn’t keep track! I know there are at least a few people that I didn’t talk to for at least a few minutes, but I tried.
I was really surprised to talk to a very sweet young lady who recognized me from my blog! XD That was incredibly amusing–I never expect anyone to actually read this, particularly not those I don’t know personally. It was a very pleasant surprise! (And I hope to see her again at more meetups, too! ♥)
I was very excited to reconnect with some lolita I hadn’t seen in a while. Meetup times and locations don’t always work for absolutely everyone in the area (and I think this meetup showed that there are really quite a lot of people interested in the fashion in the area!), so sometimes it will be months at a time before schedules mesh correctly again. (It also doesn’t help that I miss all of the Sunday events! Le sigh…)
However, there were also a few girls from Wisconsin, Michigan, and I think even Indiana who took the time to travel. Having an opportunity to spend some time with long-distance friends is always exciting. I don’t ever get the chance to do much traveling myself, so I have to wait for people to maybe-perhaps head towards me and hope they have some time to spare.
The only unpleasant part of the picnic involved some rude photographers. A large group of them came upon our picnic and began taking pictures without speaking to anyone or asking anyone’s permission. I only noticed one picture-taker at first, and initially thought that he was invited by someone at the meetup, but soon there was a swarm. It made everyone very uncomfortable. It felt very dehumanizing. It isn’t legally necessary for photographers to ask for permission when in public places, but honestly it’s simply rude. I wish I knew what group it was, because I’d certainly like to chide their behavior.
Beyond the uninvited camera-toting group, there was an “officially sanctioned” videographer at the event. I spent some time talking to the camera crew that attended the meetup. I had thought at first that they might be from a local newspaper, but I thought one of the girls looked very familiar. It turns out that she worked on a documentary on lolita for a school assignment (“Lolita in Translation“) that I helped out with a little over a year ago. They’re working on a follow-up and/or expanded documentary, this time not on the tight schedule and requirements of an assignment. It was neat to see them again and talk about what they’re working on now. They’re very talented, and I love the way they shape their projects. None of the people who worked on and produced the documentary had any interest in lolita fashion other than “what is this anyway?” and I think their views as outsiders helped create something that is very accessible and not heavily biased. I’m looking forward to future projects, lolita-related or not!
After a few rounds of lolita-themed bingo, the sky started to look a bit stormy. There had been reports that the weather might get inclement, so we headed towards shelter. The cultural center is always a nice place to take a group, as there is no admission or other fees. It’s a quiet, beautiful building…and it has air conditioning! When you’ve spent so much time in the heat and humidity, air conditioning is a beautiful, glorious thing.
At that point the group started to splinter. Some people needed to get home soon; others were making plans for dinner or other activities after the meetup. When the cultural center started to close, we headed outside and started to go separate ways. I wound up at the Melting Pot (the only place downtown that could seat a large quantity of frilly girls on a very short notice) after an ill-fated attempt to visit the Rainbow Room.
By the time I finally got home, I was utterly exhausted–but it was so much fun! I still prefer smaller meetups, as this one was a bit overwhelming at times, but there’s something amazing about witnessing proof that so many people so close to you have the same hobby and interest. Hopefully I’ll see many of these girls, particularly those I met for the first time, at meetups that have yet to be! Otherwise, maybe they’ll come next year! The goal is to make this “mega-meetup” an annual event.