Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The Fest for Beatle fans Chicago 2014 -- Sara's Review

2014 marked my personal 20th anniversary of Beatlefest conventions in Chicago.   I went to my very first Fest in 1994, when I was 17 years old.   The summer before, I had attended the Illinois Teenager Institute in Bloomington, Illinois.  ITI was sort of like a camp for kids who didn't do drugs and were positive peer leaders in their high schools (yes...I was one of those kids).   I was wearing one of my Beatles t-shirts there and an adult counselor stopped me and asked if I had ever gone to Beatlefest.  Beatlefest??  What is that??   He told me that it was awesome and I had to go. He said to call 1-800-BEATLES and order a catalog.    I have no idea who that man was, but I am so thankful that he told me about the Fest.   In pre-"everyone has the internet" days, you had to hear about things like this through word of mouth.  

And so the next summer, right before I went off to college, I begged my mom to take me to Beatlefest.   And 20 years ago, I had no idea that I would one day know so many Beatle authors and be a speak on two panels myself.    

If I was going to give a name to this year's Fest, I would call it "the Fest for Beatle Friends."   I spent so much of my time chatting with Beatle friends both old and new from all around the world.   From friends that I have met many years ago to people I just started chatting with while waiting in line to get into an event, I had such a great time enjoying the company of fellow Beatle fans.    

Due to the negativity going on in the Beatles community, especially on tumblr, and some not so nice comments I had been receiving, I had lost a lot of faith in Beatle fans.   I was scared that this fandom was going in a direction that I did not like at all.  However, Beatlefest has renewed my faith in all of you.   I am sorry for ever doubting that Beatle fans are some of the best people in the world.   I am sorry that I allowed a few bad "apples" (yes that is a pun) to ruin my attitude. 

As always, my mom and I had a great time at the Fest for Beatle fans.   We went into the event knowing that it was going to be fun and we weren't going to allow changes in the layout of the hotel, or the attitude of a few negative people stop us from enjoying ourselves.    Unfortunately, since my school started bright and early Monday morning, we had to leave at 4:00pm on Sunday, missing out on about 8 hours worth of Beatles fun.   But we made the best out of the time we had there.

On Friday we got our wristbands and went into the main ballroom and listened to the introduction of the authors.   Of course most of the authors are friends of mine, which made me really happy to see them all up on stage talking about their books.  Afterward we took some time to check out the art contest, Beatles museum, record room, market place and all of the other artists that was showcasing their work (Eric Cash's things are amazing!).    Then it was an evening of listen to various people talk about my favorite thing to talk about--the Beatles!   The surprise guest of the fest was Dee Ellis. Dee has a new book called Confessions of a Beatlemaniac that retells her life in 1964-1966 including when she met three of the Beatles in a Cleveland hotel in 1966.   I will be reviewing her book very soon.   She has such enthusiasm and is so animated when she talks, that you feel like you are right there with her when she is telling her story.   Dee is a sweet woman and I am so glad that I met her!   I also listened to Ringo's former finance, Nancy Andrews talk and show some of the photos from her new Ringo Starr photograph book.  Nancy is so kind that is is just no shock to me that Ringo fell in love with her.    The last thing I did on Friday night was listen to several people talk about the Beatles 1964 summer tour.   Great discussions!

Nancy Andrews talk about the photos she took of Ringo Starr

Wally Podrazik leads a discussion on the 1964 Beatles tour with Ivor Davis, Al Sussman, Chuck Gunderson and Bruce Spizer

Saturday was a super busy day and I didn't want to miss anything!    I was once again honored to take part in the "She's a Woman--historian" panel where we discussed the legacy of the Beatles.   Big wigs in the Beatles world such as Mark Lewisohn and Bruce Spizer came to this panel discussion.   I was pretty nervous up there with those guys in the crowd, but it went really well.   Another highlight from Saturday was hearing Wally Podrazik interview Mark Lewisohn.   I found it to be a great interview and I just love hearing Mark talk about the Beatles!    I did a lot of shopping, chatting, and enjoying Beatles music. I personally did not care for the musical guests this year.   I do not like the Monkees, but my mom does and so we listened to Peter Noone and Mickey (I think that is who it was) form the Monkees sing and they were both very good.    I spent the end of Saturday with the "people under the stairs" singing Beatles songs.  One of these days I am going to find out who these folks are.  I see them each and every summer and recognize them, and yet I do not know them.

Women's historians:   Tina Kukla, Allison Boron, Susan Ryan, me, Kit O'Tool and Karen Duchaj

Mark is finally getting a good interview by Wally

As I said, I had to leave early on Sunday, so I wasn't able to do everything I wanted to do. First I was able to hear my dear friend, Jude Southerland Kessler's presentation on the Beatles and John Lennon in 1964.   She is such an amazing speaker!!    I made sure not to miss the puppet show!   I do not think I have missed a Beatles puppet show since Bob Abdou started putting them on.   If you go to a Beatlefest,  I really encourage you to see the puppet show.   It is good fun.   Then I was on my 2nd panel which was about the Beatles in the Cyberworld.    I was excited about this panel because it gave me a chance to talk about this blog and tell some of the stories.   I hope I didn't monopolize the discussion too much.   It is really intimidating to be on a panel with Beatles authors and I just have a blog.   But....I really loved doing it.   

Bob Abdou with his Beatle baby puppet

Professor "moptop", Richard Buskin, Rob Rodriguez, Kit O'Tool, me and Lana Stagg talk about the Beatles online

I am so glad that I was able to attend the fest this year and I encourage all of you out on the west coat to check out the Fest in L.A. in October! 


  1. Sara, you were a valuable addition to the Cyber-Beatles panel, and I hope we can repeat it next year!

  2. Sara, I count you as a Beatles author!!!

    Made me nostalgic for Beatlefest! Haven't been back since 1985! Singing under the stairs was always the best, I stayed up all night, drumming on wastepaper baskets!

    This looked like a particularly good Fest!

    But, Sara, pray tell....what is the meaning of Mark "finally" got a good interview! Lol! (Just teasing, no need to elaborate, no need to elaborate!!!!)

    Hey, Sara, you kinda ARE a Beatles author, actually. And if it's a panel about cyber-Beatles, who better than you to be on it?!!!! This is one of the most interesting...scratch that...this is one of the most consistently interesting, consistently surprising, consistently absorbing Beatle-related sites on the web! Ever!

    Great account of the weekend. I am determined to go to the next one in NYC, mark my words!!!

  3. Can we get a new blog started on the upcoming 2016 Fest only 6 weeks away. So much new stuff "Beatles 1+", "Pure McCartney", Paul and Ringo tours, the Ron Howard Beatles movie..etc! I can't wait for the 2016 Fest!

    1. I will be there on Sunday only. I am going to the Paul concert in St. Louis (no surprise) on Saturday night and then driving up to Chicago Sunday morning to get there by noon! I am excited!!! See you there!