“Sometimes you gotta run naked”: Thoughts on the Gilmore Girls Fan Fest

It has been well established on this blog (and my Facebook, and Twitter, and Instagram…) that I am a huge “Gilmore Girls” fan. And this past weekend, my mom and I got to partake in something pretty special: the Gilmore Girls Fan Fest in Washington Depot, CT.

I’m usually not a spontaneous person, but when a college friend sent me a link to the GG Fan Fest, I made a spur of the moment decision: I ordered two VIP tickets, wrote my mom’s name down as my guest, and figured out ways to justify the large amount of $$$ I put down (knowing I would get to meet many cast members helped quell this momentary freak out).

I’m so glad I purchased quickly, as the tickets sold out lightening fast, and, two months later, I found myself in a tiny Connecticut town with my Lorelia Gilmore (my mom, duh) surrounded by 1,500 other SUPER FANS–a phrase Keiko Agena actually used in reference to us.

And by super fans, I mean SUPER FANS. I mean GG-trivia-might-have-turned-violent level super fans. OK, maybe not violent. Every person my mom and I talked to over the three-day festival was friendly, talkative, and just plain excited to be at the Fan Fest, aka the Mecca of “Gilmore Girls” fandom. But I have never seen so much “Gilmore Girls” themed apparel in my life. Ranging from Doose’s Market bags to “Babette Ate Oatmeal” t-shirts to colorful shirts with quotable phrases from the show (created by the creators of the festival, Jennie and Marcus Whitaker of Kindred Handicrafts), festival attendees were out in full force, literally wearing their love for the show.
My favorite? A handmade shirt that read “The fish flies at night.” 

In addition to GG-themed apparel galore, we got to partake in many of the the show’s beloved traditions: a Friday night cocktail hour and dinner, a town hall meeting, the Festival of Living Art, tea and Sookie’s orange scones at the Mayflower Grace (aka Independence Inn), antiquing, coffee from a hardware store (very Luke’s Diner), voting on our favorite Rory boyfriend (answer: no boyfriend, although I had to pick so I voted for Logan) and a knit-a-thon, all while taking in the best Stars Hollow atmosphere Washington Depot could provide.

When I first started watching GG, my best friend and I communicated via land lines. Twitter was not yet a thing and any “insider” news I gained of the show was via teen magazines or any interviews I happened to catch on TV. Now, 16 years later, watching the show is a completely different experience. While the original 7 seasons coming to Netflix no doubt increased the fan base (and also added a new level of frenzy to the current fan base), I think it also did something else: it affirmed to all lifer fans that there were others out there. Thousands, even. In the new age of social media and streaming, “Gilmore Girls” fans like me found themselves suddenly surrounded by hundreds of others who can quote the show just as well as I can, claim themselves to be the #1 fan, and also drink their coffee out of “Gilmore Girls” themed mugs.

Now, I don’t want to get into the semantics of lifer fans v. new fans, or who really loves the show the most, because that’s just plain ugly. Furthermore, that was not the point of the Fan Fest, or the atmosphere felt over the weekend. In fact, it was quite the opposite: attendees were eager to share their favorite moments from the show. We laughed while watching the episodes on a movie-theater size screen, despite having seen the show enough times to have it memorized. We smiled giddily while waiting in line to meet Sean Gunn aka Cat Kirk. We waited patiently in long lines in the cold, cold rain to meet other stars of the show. We oohed and ahhed at the Mayflower Grace, part of Amy Sherman-Palladino’s inspiration for the show and the place she wrote the first few episodes. We marveled at the kindness of the Washington Depot residents, who kept us warm with free coffee and free chili; who kept us fed with free cake and $3 pizza slices; who smiled congenially and chatted eagerly, even while thousands of people took over their blink-and-you’ll-miss-it postcard town.

While the festival presented some unexpected road blocks (i.e. RAIN and long lines), it also provided the uniquest of experiences: to traipse through the town that inspired a dearly beloved show, all while meeting cast favorites and soaking in insider info on the production of the show. As a festival attendee, I think I can speak for the rest when I say the spirit of Stars Hollow was definitely alive and well.

I’ll end with a list, because who doesn’t love lists? A few of my favorite moments:

  1. Liz Torres (Miss Patty) interrupting Friday night’s crew panel (which featured writers, a costumer, casting directors, a dialogue coach, and producers of the show) to brag about the accomplishments of a few of the crew members, followed by a promise to Michael Ausiello (TVLine editor and leader of the panel) that: “I want to take you home. I promise I won’t hurt you.” So Miss Patty.

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    Crew panel on Friday night, featuring Star Herrmann (and Ed too, in picture form!)

  2. MEETING KIRK! I didn’t anticipate the long lines to meet the cast members (and I’m not sure why I didn’t anticipate this), but my mom and I were luckily in a primo spot to meet Sean Gunn during a fundraiser for the New Mildred Animal Welfare Society. Not only were the cats adorable, but we got to meet AND take a picture with Sean. I, of course, gushed about how I loved his love of cats. When he asked the name of my cat, I told him her nickname (Umpo) and he proceeded to spell it out CORRECTLY, followed by saying “That’s a great name for a cat.” I could have died. Instead, I gushed about how nice it was to meet them while my mom told him that we bonded over watching the show. It was amazing.

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    Sean Gunn and Rini Bell, aka Kirk and Lulu, aka MAJOR FREAK OUT

  3. Star Herrmann, the late Ed Herrmann’s wife, came to the festival with one of their daughters to share some of Ed’s favorite moments from making the show. She shared many memories of his experience with the show (like how she was his first wife and Kelly Bishop was his second, or how heartbroken he was when the show ended), but my favorite was her comments on how friendly and ernest Ed was with everyone he met. The comments were very similar to the comments shared by my dad at my grandfather’s memorial just the weekend before, and it was amazing to witness yet another moment of my favorite show merging with my real life.
  4. Valerie Campbell shared many, many gems of shooting the show, such as: how upset she was to see that Ed Herrmann had grown a beard during show hiatus; how it hailed during the filming of Lane’s wedding episode; that the trees on the WB set were stripped of leaves and redecorated with Fall leaves during Fall episodes; that Amy Sherman-Palladino was very anti-midriff and would re-shoot a scene if midriff showed; that Valerie was the one ripping the coat off a cold cast member during filming that featured any kind of sleeveless dress. She also brought along the original bop it from the show, plus many, many more wonderful things.

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    BOP IT!

  5. While we didn’t get to personally meet any of the other cast members (again, long lines), we caught a few special moments: Liz Torres bonding with fans in the Hickory Stick Bookshop; the show costume supervisor, Valerie Campbell, sharing behind-the-scenes pictures of cast members, and later sharing behind-the-scenes stories; Keiko Agena high-fiving  fans as she left her art sale; Rose Abdoo sharing a story of her knitted sweater for the season 7 knit-a-thon (she wore an itchy sweater to which both Lauren Graham and Melissa McCarthy commented “They put you in that? I said no.”); so many more. We missed the surprise Hep Alien concert but we did have prime seating in the Town Hall for the…
  6. CAST PANEL! When I purchased the tickets, I literally thought “I ain’t sitting in no tent” (my English major has paid off well) and paid a bit extra to have seating in the Town Hall for the panels. I’m SO GLAD I did. While we may not have had the chance to meet all the cast members one-on-one, we got to literally SIT IN THE SAME ROOM as them for two hours. This was the most surreal feeling. I have watched this show so many times and for so long, that seeing the cast members with my own two eyes almost held no shock value. When I saw Liz or Sean or Keiko for the first time, I just thought: “Oh, well there they are, nice to see them again.” This was a comforting feeling, but also so strange. And there were many, many quotable moments from the cast panel, but these were some of my favorite:
    1. Rose Abdoo: “Gypsy is in love with Lorelei.”
    2. Ring Bell: dating Kirk was the “farthest from boring but closest to danger.”
    3. Sean Gunn: “Call me Sean; for the love of God, call me Sean.”
    4. Liz Torres: “I was just a 300 pound woman auditioning for a dance teacher. I can dance, but you don’t want to look at it.”
    5. Mike Gandolfi: being the statue in the Festival of Living Art was apparently “payback for taking Amy to a bikram yoga class.”
    6. Sean Gunn again: “Sometimes you gotta run naked.”
    7. Kevin or Demi of “Gilmore Guys” podcast: “The bop it is dead like Dean and Rory’s love.”
    8. Keiko Agena, when asked who they would vote for from the show for President: “Just vote.” Yaassss.
    9. When asked about which team boyfriend the cast members were on, luckily a few said the following: “She’s a powerful woman who doesn’t need a man to define her” and “No one’s good enough for her.” THANK YOU. 

All in all, this was a weekend for the books. I loved not only seeing some of my favorite cast members, but also seeing them for who they are outside of actors and their beloved roles on GG. They were all so lovely and genuine and seemed so happy to be with us, even though we were screaming lunatics half the time (in a good way). I think that was the biggest treat of them all, other than spending a GG-themed weekend with the person I watched the show with and who I will watch the revival with bright and early on Nov. 25 (we’re already picking out our GG-themed menu for the day).

And to top it off, watching the “Gilmore Girls: Seasons” preview this morning filled me with an overwhelming sense of Washington Depot, CT, all of which would not have been possible if not for Jennie and Marcus and their small idea for a fan fest that turned into a huge reality. Thank you for such an amazing weekend.

 

 

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