Monday, April 02, 2012

Three Blogtastic Days, Day 2: NEPA BlogFest

FRIDAY, MARCH 29, 2012:

I was late, as usual. I really, really meant to be there early, but I got wrapped up with some yard work on what was threatening to be the last dry and beautiful day for a while, and then had to make a detour to buy some tickets for the Mega Millions lottery. (I am so glad that is over. Somebody let me know the next time a lottery is over $200 million or so, and I might consider buying another ticket or two.) I wanted to be there at 5:30, but it was closer to 6:20 when I pulled up.

Things hadn't gone off exactly as planned. We had intended to have the Arts SEEN Gallery, two doors down from Rooney's, open that evening for the benefit of everyone at BlogFest. But there was an issue of the doors being locked, and the keys (and keyholders) being unavailable. Then there was the issue of the coffee shop between Rooney's and the Arts SEEN Gallery. While I had done what I could to persuade the owner to stay open for BlogFest, he had made the decision to close at 5:00, as is his custom on Fridays. (Which would explain why, during the previous four BlogFests, I wasn't even aware that there was a coffee shop there.) So he lost out on a considerable amount of business. Oh well.

I met with Michelle Hryvnak Davies and Mike Burnside outside of Rooney's. We hung out and talked for a while, but I was eager to get inside and unpack the things I had brought, which included special "BLOGGER" nametags and a blogger sign-in sheet. Once I got inside I immediately saw Gort and Joe Valenti, the political-blogging duo who came up with the idea for Blog Fest. At a table inside I saw Karla Porter talking with Justin Vacula and someone else I didn't recognize, but would much later discover was Stephen Albert from Not Cease From Exploration.

As the night went on the bloggers continued to pour in: Chantal Rich from Crafternoon Tea, Steve Urbanski (whose blog is currently on hiatus, but who writes for, and Brent Pennington and Mandy Boyle. Later still I saw Tom Borthwick of NEPartisan and someone I didn't recognize at first, but who I later realized was Cheri Sundra with a different hairstyle! Leslie Stewart of Darling Stewie came bopping in, unmistakable in her style, accompanied by a blogger we don't have linked yet - Daz aka DKSaxton. Dave Yonki came in and immediately called me Tom, apparently missing my name tag. (But at least this time he didn't call Michelle "Jen Wade" in his post!) James O'Meara stopped by briefly - he was there as a blogger and on the job as a political aide!

There were plenty of politicians in attendance for all or part of the night. I recognized Gerry Mullery, Matt Cartwright, and Bill Vinsko, but there were quite a few others - see Gort's post for a complete list!

Gene Stilp was the hit of the night. He brought along a big enough posse of young, enthusiastic supporters to fill several tables alone - if they ever sat down! He was a ball of energy throughout the night, singing and dancing and posing for pictures. But what really stole the show was someone he brought along with him - Pignelope the Pig! This giant inflatable pig occupied much of the sidewalk in front of Rooney's, and has appeared in everyone's photos from the night.  Whatever happens, we'll have to make sure that Gene Stilp and Pignelope show up at future events.

Pignelope, looking dashing in a Blogging Hat
Several non-politicians and/or non-bloggers showed up just to see what was going on. My friend Betsy came in early (well before I showed up), and Susan Prywara and Sonibet Diaz of the Wilkes-Barre CareerLink came by along with several members of the Job Club to see if it was really as good a networking opportunity as I had made it out to be. I was able to connect Susan with Gerry Mullery as a potential Job Club speaker, and directed some friends who can benefit from the services of CareerLink and the Job Club to speak with Susan throughout the night. A blogger who I know through my writing group, Leslee Clapp, also stopped by to see what I've been talking about the last few weeks.

As the night wore on I noticed that two bloggers had signed in who I had never met before - Nathalie Sousa of Casa de Lola and Brian Fanelli of All the Right Notes. I was able to locate them quickly by looking for people who hadn't been there earlier. Brian also runs a monthly poetry reading, and I excitedly told him about the 570 Writers site that is a combination blog and events calendar for writing-related events. He pointed out that he already knew about it, since he actually co-administers the site.

(I probably missed a few bloggers throughout the night. I know that one aspiring blogger was in attendance, though his blog is currently without content. If you were there and I missed you, let me know!)

UPDATE, 4/2/2012: I took a look at the picture below to see if there were any bloggers that I missed. I started off by saying, "OK, at the bar there's Big Dan and Mrs. Big Dan, and..." So, yeah, I missed the bloggers from Big Dan's Big Blog and the Politics in Healthcare Blog!

As the night wound down I flopped into a chair at a table with, variously, Michelle, Karla, Duke from Dallas (who doesn't have a blog, but should), Cheri, and Justin. We exchanged pleasant conversations until the band - a four-piece electric act - started blasting out the greatest hits of the 60's and 70's at such a deafening volume that the conversations quickly devolved into "WHAT DID YOU SAY?" "I SAID, 'WHAT DID YOU SAY?'" "I SAID, 'I CAN'T HEAR YOU!!!'" At that point I could have really, really used a quiet coffee shop to use as a refuge and a source of coffee and pastries. That place would have seen a steady stream of business throughout the night.

People standing and talking. Many of them could have spent a few minutes sitting and talking in the closed coffee shop next door,
especially once the band decided to rock out at full volume and made it impossible to have a conversation.
So the "BLOGGER" name tags worked really well, helping to distinguish bloggers from non-bloggers, and identifying bloggers by name. The sign-in sheet worked well, too - not just as a way to keep track of who was there, but as a way to alert us when new bloggers walked in when we weren't watching.

The coffee shop being closed was a definite problem, a problem we've got nearly six months to resolve. The band was another problem. I love live music, but for an evening of mingling and networking, perhaps something more subdued would be more appropriate. I know several acoustic acts in the area who might be willing to play at the next BlogFest. Alternatively, we could incorporate the music into the event itself. Three words: BLOG FEST KARAOKE. See your favorite bloggers sing their hearts out!  Thrill to candidates for political office trying to make it through versions of "Brandy," "Horse with No Name," and "Sister Golden Hair" without screwing up badly enough to lose any votes! ...hey, it could work!

Gort has posted a wrap-up of all of the posts about the Spring 2012 Blog Fest over on NEPA Blogs. And before you get worried about when the next Blog Fest will be...well, that was announced even before this Blog Fest was over!

OK, technically it's the last full day of Summer. We'll see what the weather is like then!

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