Gilmore Girls FanFest 2016

Update - Yes, there does appear to be a festival, in a new location, scheduled for 2017..  Although this will always be one of the best memories for me - and such a great experience with my daughter, I don't think we'll be attending in 2017.  The price is too high, and there is no information about what you are actually paying for.  No information on who will be there.  No schedule of events.  Nothing.  Given how unimpressed we were with how well the first one was organized (It was the FIRST event - so it's ok that it wasn't perfectly organized, and I'm sure I couldn't have done any better.  That doesn't mean I'm willing to pay more , without even knowing what is planned, for the second year. ) the lack of information for is just too big of a concern for us, at that ticket price.  I'm extremely thankful we got tickets for this first festival.  I'm really glad we went.  It's a memory with my daughter that I will treasure forever.  But I think it might have been a "been there, done that, got the t-shirt" event - no need to do it twice.  :-)  Yet, who knows?  If there are still tickets available and more information is released..  we might just still make the trip.  We'll see!

See a facebook album of all of my photos from the festival here:

Right before our only daughter headed off to college, she was sitting here on our couch and suddenly exclaimed "They are having a gilmore girls festival, and tickets are for sale right now".

Normally I do not spend money without a lot of thought.  If she, my only daughter, hadn't been "leaving me" (She's at a college 30 minutes away and visits regularly - but it's been a pretty big year for our family with ALL FOUR of our children planning to be out of the house in the next few months, and our first grandchild being born and living on the other side of the continent.  So allow me a bit of melodrama.) I might not have so quickly purchased $175 tickets to a festival we knew almost nothing about.

Downtown Washington, Ct.  

Because there was literally VERY little information about this festival before hand.  We purchased tickets on blind faith. And then we planned a week-end in Washington Depot CT.  Tickets sold out insanely fast.  Not many were available - I believe they only sold around 1,000 at first, and later were able to offer another 200 for sale. Leading up to the festival, I had several people contact me through my public facebook page (linked to this blog - Fields Of Heather) and ask to purchase the tickets.  Some offered a LOT more than the face value.  One complained that I didn't even live in CT, that they live in CT and should have had first shot at the tickets.  LOL!  There were people at the festival from Los Angeles CA, North Carolina, and Texas.  Many of us were from New York, Pennsylvania & New Jersey, but quite a few people purchased plane tickets, in addition to hotel rooms and the event tickets, to attend this event.

I quickly booked a hotel room, seeing that there were very few options nearby, and assuming if event tickets sold out that fast, that hotels would book quickly too.  They did.  I chose the only nearby option - 20 minutes away at the Red Carpet Inn.  This was a huge mistake.  The room was a nightmare, and if there was ANYTHING I could have found in the area that night, we would have moved to another hotel.  But there was nothing..  We heard from someone else, in another hotel, that they went through 3 rooms before finding an acceptable one. The first room they were given hadn't been cleaned - the bed was unmade, there was trash everywhere.  They asked for another room, and when they entered that one and placed their hand on the window, the entire glass pane fell out.  So it wasn't just our hotel, this is just not a great area for nice hotels.
My daughter with the sign in downtown Washington CT.

FRIDAY

Because my daughter had a late Psych test she could not miss, and we live 4 hours and 19 minutes away from the festival, we did not make it to the cocktail hour, or see the first night panel. We were disappointed, but it just wasn't possible to get there any earlier.  Since we couldn't possibly get there in time, we stopped at the Tri State Marker for a fun geocache and beautiful view, and then at a great little diner in Port Jervis PA.

Spotify has a Complete Gilmore Girls Playlist - every song from every episode of Gilmore Girls. It's 4 hours and 19 minutes long, almost the exact length of our trip.  That was pretty cool.

We drove through winding, curving, hills, with woods on each side, for about an hour (our entire trip was just over 4 hours) before we arrived at the Red Carpet Inn in New Milford CT.  There were not many lights or any other businesses visible in the dark.  We parked under trees, and had branches on the car the next morning. I'm a farm wife in PA - we are used to rural - but we are not really used to such rural hotels!  The clerk showed us to our room - walked in ahead of us with a can of febreeze.  Oh yeah, not a good sign. There was a huge Jacuzzi tub in the front room, with an out of order sign on it.  From the smell of the room, I guessed it leaked all the time. We were told not to use it.  We bought a can of lysol at a nearby convenience store, and kept our luggage in the car so that it would not absorb the odors of the room.  There were cellar doors right to the left of our room door.  It felt a bit like a scene from criminal minds - I texted my husband that if he didn't hear from us in the morning to make sure someone checked the basement. I was mostly joking.  The room above us was not sound proof.  It sounded like elephants were up there when they walked, and we could clearly hear the dialogue on their tv.  Mostly we prayed that their tv and footsteps were ALL we would hear that night, and our prayers were answered.  Our bathroom door didn't fully close, and we ran out of toilet paper and had to go to the office - in another building - to request another roll.

The menu board in my kitchen while we were away...  Dan and Matt had tickets to the Steelers game on Sunday in Pittsburgh, and a group of guys went to the Texas Roadhouse and Jack Reacher movie Saturday - so they managed just fine with us away. 

 This should give you an idea of how badly we wanted to attend this festival - normally I have a rule that we either camp, or stay in hotels with names like Hilton or Marriott. I don't really do in between, since our horrible experience with expedia and hotels in West Virginia. But there were no other options. So we bought our lysol and made the best of it.  The second night here, the room smelled much better.  It had been cleaned while we were out (and our key didn't work when we returned, I had to have it re magnetized - I think they thought we weren't coming back since our luggage was in our car) and it smelled like it had been aired out considerably.  The room had probably not been used for awhile before this festival. Still, this is not a hotel I'd recommend.


This is a photo I took Saturday during Living Pictures.  Friday night during the screening Liz Torres was up in this balcony - at one point in the video the moderator for the evening says "You get one more outburst Liz, use it wisely".  LOL!  You can find all the videos from this event on the Fanfest facebook page here - https://www.facebook.com/gilmoregirlsfanfest/

We watched the live facebook video of the screening from our hotel room.  If we had had a nicer hotel room, I think I would have preferred this to sitting in the tent anyway.  It really was frustrating to pay all of this money to sit in a tent and watch the same video we could watch on facebook from home. Perhaps if the weather had been better, we'd have had more of an opportunity to interact with the cast before they entered town hall, but it was very rainy and cold Saturday night as they entered, and I don't blame them for just wanting to get inside.

SATURDAY


Saturday morning we got up early - happy to escape our hotel room.  We found the late registration at the American Legion, and I breathed easier once we had the wrist bands on our arms.  There were no physical tickets for this event.  Some fake ones had been sold on ticketmaster, but there were no actual tickets.  Our names were merely on a master list - we showed our ID and were given our wrist bands.


Goody Bags.  Our ticket price included a REALLY soft t-shirt not pictured here. 

From there we attended what was listed as a Town Hall meeting.  We expected an actual town meeting, but it was just a welcome to the festival, this is what is happening today, speech.  This is when I realized how much it sucked to not have VIP tickets.  VIP tickets were $250, and sold out before I knew the festival existed.  VIP wrist bands were green, as opposed to our white ones, and granted you access to the actual town hall.  Our white wristbands got us into a tent where we watched what happened in the town hall on a big screen. Almost everything that happened in town hall was videoed and posted on facebook, so if that was all the festival was, it would have been a huge waste of money and time.  Thankfully there was more to it, although I'm still pretty disappointed that we never even got to see the Gilmore guys, or several cast members, except on the screen we could have watched from home.

We were able to purchase a GREAT breakfast, and coffee, in front of the Washington Market - which was an excellent Dooses!  I loved the Washington Market and wish our little local grocery store would go visit and take notes.  It was the absolute perfect small town grocery store.

 It rained all day Saturday, but that didn't really ruin the festival, and it probably helped keep those without tickets away from the town.  I know a lot of people planned to crash the event.  At one point I heard a woman walking from the parking area say "I wish I could find that woman who said we wouldn't be able to get in without tickets so I could tell her she's wrong!".  Although that woman could shop at the outdoor stands and visit some of the buildings, she would not have been able to get into the cast workshops or into the main festival area - I wondered how she felt about that once she walked into town and found out that that wrist band was needed for all the festival areas.
 

My daughter is a huge Sean Gunn fan, so we stayed put in the main tent to see Team Kirk Cat and his cat rescue.  Several cats were adopted that day, and I had to repeatedly remind my daughter that we live on a farm where people regularly drop off cats - we could NOT adopt one.  Not even from Kirk. :-)  If we had all stood in lines to see Sean we would have blocked all the exits, and violated the fire codes.  So they released us to the line one row at a time from the seats in the tents.  It was funny to hear the crowd "police" those who tried to sneak into line without waiting.  There were several volunteers who kept people from line jumping as well. It took us about 2 hours of waiting, but we werre able to chat with Sean and Rini Bell and get autographs and photos.   They showed a few gilmore girls clips, and everyone was chatting, it wasn't a tedious wait at all.

Shadow puppets on the big screen while waiting to see Sean Gunn

Next we went outside and saw Jackson was standing at a pop up right outside the main tent, for autographs and photos.  We didn't know he would be here, so this was a nice surprise!  The line wasn't too long - it was raining pretty steadily and the line had to stand in the rain with umbrellas, so we were able to get through that line pretty quick.




There was a little farmers market in town Saturday too - part of the town, not part of the festival.  It was really nice!

There were more cast workshops, but the lines were sooooooo long, we didn't think we'd have any chance of actually getting through the lines before they were over.  We were disappointed that we couldn't fit them all in, but it just wasn't possible, as far as we could tell.


At noon we were back in the main tent for the Eat Like a Gilmore cooking demonstration. Arvis Alverado, Ceasar, took part in the demo. We couldn't really see the table for the food "demonstration" and it was actually much more interesting to listen to Aris' Q &A.  He shared all sorts of little tidbits about his time on the show, and it ended up being one of our favorite parts of the entire week-end.  We did get to taste the Mocktini's made for the demo, but only a few people got a chance to taste the bruschetta and we were not one of them, even though we were just a few rows from the front.  


After the food demonstration, I ran to the bookstore to buy copies of the book for us.  I wish I had bought them first thing in the morning.  Each book had a number, for the book signing later you lined up by number.  While I picked up our books, my daughter ran to the food trucks for some lunch.  She got us panini's that were quite good.  We ducked back into the main tent to eat our lunch, where they were doing screenings and holding a knit a thon.

Red Heart donated lots of yarn for the knit a thon!
A view of the screening, with a talk by Costume Supervisor Valerie Campbell.  She answered questions, talked about her job, and gave a demonstration on how she made sure outfits were exactly the same for each take.

I'm so glad we decided to have lunch here, at this time, because a few minutes in they asked us all to stand up and walk outside for a surprise....

 

A Hep Alien concert on the town hall steps!!!  This was not in the program, so if you didn't happen to be nearby, or in the main tent, you probably missed it.  I'm so glad we didn't miss it!!

  
After the concert we visited the stand in front of Washington Market (Dooses) for the cake tasting.  The cake was sooooo good, as was all of the food we got from the market this week-end.


My daughter stood in line for almost 2 hours to get our Eat Like A Gilmore books signed.  It was raining pretty hard by then, and it was warm and dry in the book store..  and in our car, which is where I went to recharge our phones and dry off a bit while she stood in line. 

The festival even had a troubadour!  

Girl With A Pearl Earring, Living Pictures

After our books were signed, we headed into town hall for Living Pictures.  This is one of my favorite things, from an episode of Gilmore Girls, and I really enjoyed seeing it done here.  Plus, it was a chance for us non VIPs to get into town hall and see the building, which was gorgeous!


It also gave us an opportunity to stand in front of the photo backdrop that the cast stood in front of for their arrival on the blue carpet, before the screenings. 

The Dance Studio in New Preston
Then we walked back to the parking area at the school to catch a bus over to the Mayflower. When we got there, we heard that Liz Torres hadn't showed up to the early dance recitals, but she had been at one of the later ones and they thought she was still there..  so we caught that bus instead.  My daughter is a HUGE Liz Torres fan, but we just couldn't track her down this week-end.  We missed her in New Preston as well, she wasn't there when we got there. We did a VERY quick look at the town, and hopped back on the bus to go back to the parking lot and catch the bus to the Mayflower Inn.
The Mayflower Grace, originally a boys school but now a very nice hotel and spa, was the inspiration for the Dragonfly Inn.  We were not able to go inside - possibly because a lot of the cast was staying here?  They were giving out tea from the area on the far right, behind the umbrellas, and we could walk through the garden. This only took a few minutes. They were selling scones too, which we purchased, and they were SOOOOOooooo good!
  
Meg, with her tea from the Mayflower, and the garden in the background.  It was pretty wet and cold by this time of day, the tea was really good.  We had taken the very last bus to the Mayflower, so we arrived back at the school with just enough time to walk back to the main tent for the cast screening moderated by the Gilmore Guys.  

It was really pretty disappointing to see this just as a video.  We never even got a glimpse of the Gilmore Guys in person.  If we had had a nicer hotel, I would have preferred to just go back to our hotel and watch the video online.  It was a hysterical screening, LOTS of fun to watch, but being here in person was no better than watching it through a facebook live video feed, since we did not have VIP tickets and were not in the town hall.  Ironically, one of the organizers commented that we could see so much better in the tent than they could in the hall.  They had some trivia and give aways that we could not participate in, because we were out in the tent.  

We had been so rushed all afternoon/evening trying to get to everything that we hadn't had time to eat.  We were cold, tired, and hungry, so we took a chance that everyone else would head straight for the parking lot, and we instead walked to The Washington Pizza House.  We had a greek pizza that was one of the best pizzas I've ever had!  It was warm, the bathrooms were clean, and there were plenty of seats when we arrived.  Best of all, by the time we walked to the parking area it was pretty much empty, so we were not stuck in long lines of traffic leaving town.

SUNDAY

Since our hotel was in New Milford, and the gazebo was also in New Milford, we got up early and stopped to see it on our way to the festival.  It's a nice little gazebo, but we have one much more similar to the one on the show, in the small towns near us. There was a bit of a town green here though, that had a bit more of the feel of the Stars Hollow town layout.

Our plan was to grab breakfast from a food truck, but there was only one truck Sunday morning.  And they didn't have coffee.  We waited half an hour - still no coffee.  While waiting we heard from one of the volunteers (organizers?) that the main cast members wanted to attend the festival but were unable to because Netflix would not allow then to come.  I don't know if that is true or not, it's the only time we heard it.

Finally we gave up on the food truck and walked to Washington Market where we saw people walking out with coffee.  Oh, how I wish we had gone there first! They had awesome breakfast options and great coffee! I bought more scones, which we had the next day at home, and they were just as good if not better than the ones we had at the Mayflower Grace.  I can't say enough about how great the Washington Market is.

At 10am there were a long list of give aways.  Names were chosen off the master list before we all sat down in the tent, if you were not there, they had back up names for each of the prizes.  We were actually glad to NOT win most of the prizes - not because they weren't great, but because getting out of our seats in the middle row and somehow getting to the front to claim our prize would have been so difficult.  We were pretty crammed into the tent, a lot of people were standing.  The highlight was Rose coming in to say goodbye to all of us, and offering a few more donations for the give away.  The organizer decided to raffle off the ornaments Rose's mom had made, and bidding quickly took off to over $100.  The second ornament sold for $150 to a VIP who had stayed at the Mayflower Grace and met Rose in the gift shop of the hotel.

After the give aways they showed one more episode of the show on the big screen, but most people chose to head home at this point.  

The day before Sean Gunn had posted an instagram photo of himself at the Woodbury Diner.  Meg had heard that Woodbury was a cute little town, and it was nearby, so we headed there for lunch.  We stopped at a french bakery, picked up some locally bottled birch beer at a nearby convenience store, and had a really fabulous lunch at the Woodbury diner.  From there we stopped in Danbury to see the mini statue of liberty, and the female Paul Revere statue - because they felt like very Rory Gilmore essential stops -  before heading home.  

We had a few frustrations with the trip - horrible accommodations.  Disappointment at not being able to make it to all of the cast workshops. Disappointment at not meeting Liz Torres or the Gilmore Guys, even though they were in a building right behind us.  But all in all, it was an amazing week-end and I'm so glad we made the trip!

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See a facebook album of all of my photos from the festival here:











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