National Gathering 2016

First I must preface that this post will be observational only, no judgement.  There were things that happened that I loved, and there were things that happened I did not like quite so much, but I will do my best to refrain from pointing those out here.

This past weekend was the 2016 National Jedi Gathering.  In my occasional lurking of the online community, I noticed that the now annual gathering was going to be held at Stronghold Castle, in Oregon, Illinois; a site I have been going to for a weekend long Renaissance Faire almost every October since 2000.  Being in my backyard, I started debating going, and reconnecting with another Jedi (Opie Macleod) whom I had known since I first joined in 1999 solidified it.  Declaimer, he is my boyfriend…so he is included in most of this since I spent most of the weekend in his company.

The Gathering itself was to take place Thursday, August 4th through Sunday, August 7th, however the Chicago Jedi organized a dinner on Wednesday night, which is evidently tradition.  Opie would not be arriving until Thursday, but I decided to venture out to the dinner on my own.

WEDNESDAY
The dinner was scheduled at 7pm at 3rd Coast Cafe & Wine Bar in Chicago.  I headed in straight from work and walked in about five minutes to seven.  There were only two people there when I arrived: Boom and Dan.  Boom and I had been friends on Facebook for several years, though we had never spoken in person, Dan was completely new to me.  I introduced myself, and Boom gave me a hug, happy to finally meet me.  The three of us chatted for a while before others started trickling in much after 7pm.  Aimee/Moonshadow sat next to me.  She had been in the community for a long time and we had actually met once before at a Star Wars Celebration.  It is hard to say who all was there and who all sat everywhere because people moved around AND I had to remember a whole bunch of new names.  There was Jeremy (who had actually been at my last Chicago Jedi meetup back in 2008, though I believe it was either his first, or the first I met him at), Stan, Connor, Hannigan, Hannigan’s girlfriend Deanna (who sat to my right), Gabe/Angelus, Gabe’s husband Jay, David, Don, and I think that is everyone.

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Myself, Aimee, and Boom at Dinner

After dinner, a small group expressed interest in going to see the fireworks at Navy Pier, and I decided to tag along.  Unfortunately, we arrived just in time to see the last set go off, but we wandered the Pier anyhow.  Those there were myself, Aimee, Stan, Jeremy, Connor, David…and I feel I am forgetting someone.  Jeremy knew a great deal of detail that he explained to the out of towners.  We almost rode the ferris wheel but decided against it.  I hugged the Chicago Shakespeare sign because…Shakespeare!

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After we were done, Jeremy drove me back to the blue line and everyone parted for the night.

OFFICIAL SCHEDULE OF EVENTS AS POSTED ON THE FACEBOOK EVENT

Thursday, 4 August 2016
2:00 – 4:00 P.M. Check-in, Room Assignments, and Settling In
4:00 – 4:30 P.M. Welcome and Announcements by Angelus Kalen
4:30 – 5:15 P.M. Opening Ceremony – “The Fortification of Swords” by Cabur Senaar
5:30 – 6:30 P.M. Dinner
7:00 – 8:00 P.M. Firebuilding by Tallan Kai-Dan
8:30 – 9:30 P.M. Jedi Symbolism and Crystal Ceremony by Alan Wilson

Friday, 5 August 2016
8:00 – 9:00 A.M. Breakfast
9:30 – 10:30 A.M. “Facing your Darkside” by Jax & Phoenix
10:45 – 11:45 A.M. “Healing with Herbs” by Diamond Firefist
12:15 – 12:45 P.M. Lunch
1:15 – 2:15 P.M. “Embodiment” by Jax
3:00 -5:00 P.M. Swimming
5:30 – 6:30 P.M Dinner
7:00 Free Time / Marketplace

Saturday, 6 August 2016
8:00 – 9:00 A.M. Breakfast
9:30 – 10:30 A.M. “Martial Arts for the Modern Jedi” by Raphael Ben Raven
10:45 – 12:00 A.M. “Roots of the Tree” by Kai-An Tatok and Angelus Kalen
12:15 – 12:45 P.M. Lunch
1:15 – 2:15 P.M. “Mentoring: The Master-Padawan Relationship” by Angelus Kalen
2:30 – 5:00 P.M. Free Time / Marketplace
5:30 – 6:30 P.M Dinner
7:00 Group Picture
8:00 Knighting and Celebration

Sunday, 7 August 2016
8:00 – 9:00 A.M. Breakfast
9:30 – 10:30 A.M. Closing Ceremony – “The Fortification of Swords” by Cabur Senaar
12:00 P.M. Check out

THURSDAY

I worked Thursday, so I did not arrive until about 6:30pm.  I checked in, received a bag with the Yearbook and some random samples, refused the linens as I had brought my own for both Opie and myself, and then headed up to the room to start unloading my car and await Opie’s arrival (he was en route).  By the time both of us were there and unpacked, the workshops were mostly over, so neither of us attended anything that evening, but we went downstairs afterwards to socialize.  A group got a Cards Against Humanity game going, but I did not participate, only listened in.  We headed up to bed pretty late, but there were still people awake even then.

FRIDAY

We slept in until about 10 on Friday, so only just headed downstairs for Healing with Herbs, which was basically about healing properties of various herbs with the qualifier that they are not “cures” and always consult your physician first.  Next up was lunch, which was being served at one of the main buildings at Stronghold, Brubaker.  I had packed all my own food, but I still partook in some of the desserts and stole many of Opie’s black olives.

I do not recall the reason, but we did not not attend the Embodiment workshop (EDIT: I remember now, we got in a discussion about unarmed fighting styles…at least it started as that, but likely diverged into random Jedi discussion and ranting…it happens), but headed down when it was time to go swimming.  Swimming was fun.  So much so that they added an extra hour of swimming on Saturday.  There was a canoe next to the pool that ended up being put in the pool, and people were trying to steer it around, even though it was almost the width of the pool long.  After the pool was Dinner, and after dinner was “Free Time,” when most of the Knight Review Boards took place.  Opie was on the review board for two of the four people, so he was gone doing that most of the night.  I stayed upstairs in the room to work on my script for acting class.

SATURDAY

Again, we slept in through breakfast and the first workshop of the day, but I dragged Opie down for “Roots of the Tree” as it was being co-hosted by Katie, one of the California Jedi.  During the workshop, we split off into two groups twice, in order to discuss issues amongst the groups.  First we split into males and females, then we split off into essentially “n00bs” and “vets.”  This workship had received a lot of controversy prior to the Gathering, and even I was skeptical, but it was handled better than I had imagined.  Whether or not it was effective will depend on the future.

Lunch was next, and then Opie, Katie, Aimee, and Jeremy went off to discuss something while I went back and took a quick nap (unplanned…but that is what ended up happening).  When Opie came back it was almost time to swim, so we headed down for round two of swim time, which involved a game of something between volleyball and dodgeball but ended up being dubbed”Disappointment.”  It was fun.

After pool Opie and I wandered around the grounds for a while.  I showed him the old site exit with the amphitheater and we fond the obstacle course which we were both disappointed would not be utilized for the Gathering.  We got back just in time for dinner and then…the knighting ceremony.  I wish I had filmed it, because I cannot do it justice in description.  Basically each of the three whose knighthoods were approved were brought up…some lines were read by the person presiding, the person being knighted, and the observers (the script was printed in the Yearbook), and then the person was presented as a knight.  There were also a few awards given, and everyone dressed up a bit….some in some version of a costume, others just in nicer clothing than the typical jeans and t-shirts they wore the rest of the weekend.  After the ceremony there was a party over under the Stronghold pavilion.

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California Jedi Picture – Me, Opie, Chris, Katie (technically I am not California yet, but as I will be, Katie insisted I be in it)

We hung out at the party for a little while before inviting the group we were talking with up  to our room to hang out.  Initially just Chris, Katie, and Alex came up, and Opie tried  to give them the test he had given in the review board (it had sparked some controversy).  I was also retaking it, as I had been the first to take it over the phone earlier that week, but conversations diverged and we stopped half way through.  Eventually Aimee joined us as well.  I really enjoyed spending time with that group that night, it was probably my favorite night of the gathering.

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Group photo after the Knighting Ceremony

SUNDAY

We once again…slept in.  When we woke up we went straight to packing up the room.  Loaded up our cars, and after a few goodbyes, headed off.  I thought we might run into Jeremy for lunch, as he said he was planning on going to the same place we were going to, but we did not.  He said I should come to some Chicago Jedi meetups in the future, but we shall see.

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