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A fan in Artistic Endeavors #1 wrote that it was "a weekend camping trip for members of Fort Weyr. We get about 100 people."
As remembered by Fort Historian Ch'ell (with some editorial touchups by N'Konn)
The very first Fort Fest was held in July 1983 at an Indiana State Park. Fort Historian Ch'ell didn't attend this 'Fest, but did help G'tan to attend, and heard all about it. Weyrleader K'lee (Mike Sharer) and Weyrwoman Holena (Jayne Moore) were hosts. Among this hatching were future Weyrleader K'non (June Drexler-Robertson), Green rider D'jia, and future WeyrHealer and Junior Queen Jenna (Cheryl Crawford). Due to one irresponsible individual, who proved that alcohol and state parks do not mix, Fort almost got kicked out of the park! Luckily, this didn't keep the club from trying again.
Fort Fest 1984 was held in August in Weyrleader Z'del's backyard! Well, it was actually held at the Larkin's farm near Pittsburgh where Wendy Kosak (then Zac, now Z'del) grew up. Green rider D'jia (Rusty Westbeld) dug latrines for the campout, as well as cooking wherries (turkeys) and roasting corn for the Fest Feast over an open fire. Although it rained on everyone's tents, it could have been worse; Weyrwoman Holena (Jayne Moore) brought a big army surplus-type tent! This was the year that Green rider Ch'ell (Ann Cecil), Blue rider S'gon (Dave Stein), Blue rider Melinna (Ginger Melton), Bronze rider P'sel (Andrew Strassman), and future Weyrwoman Jana (Dianna Stein) Impressed, along with many others. This was also the first year that Fort used plaster eggs at the Hatching. Almost all of the candidates were pjysically present, and the dragons left at least one candidate Standing.
July of 1985 found Fort Fest at a Michigan State Park. Blue rider S'gon (David) and Junior Queen Jana (Diana Stein) hosted this 'Fest, getting 2 cabins on a lake shore. This might have been the closest Fort Fest to matching Fort Weyr's scenery, except the land was flat and pleasant, especially at night, where we gathered around a live campfire and sang into the night. Plaster eggs were used again this year, and the 'Fest was particularly remembered for the first appearance of The Pervert, which might have been a human being, except it had glittering red eyes, scuttled at about 4 feet of height, and when pursued, could run like the wind and disappear in a blink.
Melinna (Ginger Melton) and Weyrlingmaster Eedon (Eden Kulenschmidt) of On Hold hosted 1986's Fest in June in Kentucky! The cabins were nice, but the weather was so hot, people were suffering heat stroke. There was a huge fire pit to gather around, and Thank Faranth for the swimming pool! Jana (Diana Stein) volunteered to take over the Harper Beat production. There were only 4 candidates on site, some of them stand-ins, and people played the part of the hatchlings.
1987, the fifth Fort Fest, was held near Dayton, Ohio, where C'rei (Beth Bowles), candidate Anthony Day and Debbie ran the show. There was one big lodge and some small, 3-sided open cabins for shelter. Most attendees (around 30) slept in the overhead 1oft in the big lodge, which had very enthusiastic mosquitoes! The only "shower" on site was the pump at the lodge. This year saw the return of the plaster eggs. Brown rider N'talon (Anthony Day) impressed, among a clutch of 11. The Fort Fest Pervert reared its strange head for the last time as the Pervert Pursuit grew too dangerous!
In August of 1988, Fort Fest was held at Bear Run Campground in the hills north of Pittsburgh, and people were sleeping in tents again. D'jia built the cooking fire from wood she foraged from the nearby forest. This was the first Fort Fest for Blue rider M'con (Scott Free) and Green rider Prergrine (Sandy Free). About 40 people attended; Weyrwoman Holena (Jayne Moore) flew in from Indiana. Several Canadians drove down, including B'reltam( Dennis Caswell). The campground did have showers and toilets, but no lodge, and fortunately no rain, but scorching heat (same weekend as 1984, same locale, different weather - that's Pittsburgh). This was the last time Fort Fest was held with people staying in tents.
A hot August would have looked good in 1989. "Freeze Fest" happened to be in Lagootie State Park in Indiana - in September! The two cabins had concrete floors, not enough cots, and it was very, very cold. One member from Michigan, who came late, spent a dangerously cold night trying to sleep in her car. That year Fort provided only the wherries, which had to be roasted over an open fire... thank goodness for D'jia! All of the other food was brought by the visiting Pittsburgh members. This was the first Fort Fest for Nickonne (Nancy Janda) and Mecli (Lara Van Winkle), and the last for our perennial punster Andy (P'sel) Strassman. The paper baby dragons hatched from big paper eggs. It was at this Fort Fest that Jetta Impressed Gold Ikeath, and Maggi Rohde became R'gan, impressing Brown Keneneth, after she thawed!
1990 - Raccoon Creek State Park - a home at last! And the eggs were plastered, if not the candidates, from here on out. Jetta and Z'del ran this one, with help from D'jia and WeyrHarper G'tan (Julia Ecklar). Cabins! Showers! A lodge with a kitchen! Important comfort tip - if you turn the water heaters off at night to save on electric use, the showers are very cold in the morning!!! Antek (Karen Rose Cercone) showed slides of volcanoes to teach us what Fort Weyr might be like inside. Fort held its first Candidates' Class, but it didn't stop the fictional chaos that ensued when Al'dor (Charles Schultz) and U'check (Dave Kosak) Impressed! The biggest excitement was that apprentice Zac was going to stand as a candidate; all weekend people put down bets on what Zac was going to call himself after Impressing. There were contests trying to pronounce Z'c. None of us knew Zac's full name, then.
The Big One was in 1991. Fort rented out Group Camp Two, and word got out amongst other Pern clubs - 120 people attended! There was a loooong waiting line for the Feast, going through the lodge and around it outside. The talented Z'del ran the 'Fest, and still managed to find time to play a tunnelsnake in the role-playing game. The tunnelsnake intoxicated several of the candidates. D'jia managed the kitchens and roasted a whole pig on a spit most of the weekend; those who could get past the look of the critter agreed it was delicious. Amy (Kourin) Finkbeiner flew in from Arizona to attend. G'tan organized a softball game. The HB awards were first given out this year.
For Fort Fest 1992 it was decided that only Fort Weyr members were allowed to attend. We still had eighty people, including green riders Sienna and C'tari, who flew up from Florida! Nickonne and Mecli volunteered to run the Fort Fest, little knowing what lay in store for them. This was the last 'Fest at the big campground - we were starting to lose people in the woods. By the end of the weekend, Nickonne was finally N'konn.
1993 saw Fort move back to Group Camp 3. It wasn't easy to find - a bridge was out and folks had to drive around the back way to get to the campground. Mecli and N'konn are still running the 'Fest, and Deborah (T'han) Brown finds a dragon statue in the supposedly empty demonstration egg used in the candidates' class.After this point, with the permanent home in place, the 'Fests have a tendency to blend together, but some high points stand out. hi 1994, the Red Star appeared for the first time atop the roof of the lodge (Hey, was that the Pervert's cloak on the Red Star?). The Pervert made its last, very brief appearance, and it can now be told that the creature was played by Bill (D'ner) Hohman. He played the part of the Red Star for Ruth (Il'an) Heller's Threadfall drills for the last time in 1995. 1996 saw the last Harper Beat awards before they went on hiatus. Greg (H'yu) Armstrong replaced D'ner as the Red Star. Although Harper Beat production was dreadfully slow, Fort Fests went on and kept the club together. In 1997, Z'del officially became weyrleader for Fort Fest. By the time 1998 rolled around, some of the 60-plus-year-old cabins desperately needed maintenance. Ch'ell found that holes in the roof are not good for keeping dry in a rainstorm! Luckily Heidi (Greyse) Pilewski offered our beleaguered historian a slightly less damp shelter. 1999 saw Mecli's delicious breakfast wraps appear again - but what we didn't know is that they were hurting Mecli (she stays away from eggs now)! In 2000, Deborah Brown graciously offered to become Fort Weyr's editor - an offer that was enthusiastically accepted. Kourin tried to hide in the crowd of Candidates -- gold Hoshith found her, and Kira (Qui'n) Heston dug into the sand to try and find another egg after she was left Standing at the hatching. Harper Beat production started up in earnest again, so it was time, in 2001, to start holding the Harper Beat awards again. The millennial Fort Fest also saw a Hatching indoors due to rain, where every hatchling was green!