27 January 2015

Review and Report of Gatlinburg TN trip for Cullens' Winter Escape

There was a Twilight related event in Gatlinburg Tennessee advertised for 16 to 18 January 2015, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday – Cullens’ Winter Escape with a Christmas theme. The Olympic Coven was attending – the Cullens at least. Katie Quinn Thornton, who plays Victoria, came as an attendee, but was included in the OC group upon her arrival. It was good to see her. It was advertised as the last appearance for Josh Goff as Jasper Cullen. With the cancellation of the Olympic Coven in St Helens event, it was possibly the last event appearance of the Olympic Coven as well. I was able to attend through the generosity of a friend, Ronan.

The event was actually only half day Friday and full day Saturday instead of three days as advertised. If one read through the schedule one might have noticed no activities planned for Sunday and only half for Friday, but one might have thought that the schedule was still being finalized and Sunday would be announced. An extra night of motel room was booked. The price of the event was a bit much for half the time advertised. The extra time was well spent, but would have preferred to have saved the money.

The event motel was Brookside Resort, www.brooksideresort.com. All the rooms have a balcony and one can see and hear the brook. There is a fireplace in the rooms and the bathtub has spa jets – be prepared to have a very wet floor if use the spa feature. There is also a small kitchenette with microwave in the rooms. The event room was wonderfully decorated for Christmas. The food served in the event room was good and the service there excellent. There was a free breakfast available – three types of cereal, oatmeal with toppings, biscuits and gravy, bagels, Danish, English muffins, with jelly & cream cheese available and orange juice & milk to drink. I ate dry cereal until bought some yogurt from market across the street. The biscuits were really good. I should have gotten some cheese to have with them. 

Gatlinburg has a trolley system with about five routes – not all routes run year round. There is a stop in front of the resort. While we were there the Blue route that the resort is on ran about every 40 minutes. Some of the other routes have a shorter time. What the run time is during the summer, I do not know. Downtown Gatlinburg is a mini Vegas or Reno without the gambling, as is the main road through Pigeon Forge. Bright lights, this and that show, this and that exhibit, this and that souvenir shop. Thank goodness the surrounding area was pretty. The bare trees have their own beauty. No snow while we were there.

The welcome packets did not get to us and the TShirts were not delivered in time. The activities the group planned came off well. Rather than a gift exchange, if one wanted to participate you could bring a stocking and stuffers for everyone else. It turned out 55 people participated. The stockings were overflowing and there was not really room between the stockings to make sure the overflow did not get mixed up with neighbors. I heard reports that not everyone got total of 54 items. That may have been deliberate on the part of the givers or security was needed to insure items stayed in the stockings/overflow.

For Thursday arrivals there was a gathering at TGIF for dinner. The two waiters did a magnificent job of handling the impromptu large crowd. I arrived a little late with Kim Cruz, Christilynn Swan, and Vee Cullen. Vee’s flight had been delayed. That did give me some time to chat with Christilynn and then Kim and Vee as driving to Gatlinburg. I was in awe that I was riding with two members of the Olympic Coven. Christmas light decorations were still up as there is a Winter Festival ongoing for January. Never did a night picture of some of the lights. :-( 

Friday morning I ended up walking to the Walgreens to get a couple of items I forgot. Long walk and not flat. I walked by a sky lift that I was really tempted to do, but decided I wouldn’t be able to move out of the way of chair fast enough getting off. I did wait for the trolley to take me back. The Aquarium is the one point all routes have in common. I waited about 20 minutes for first trolley to continue its route and take me to the Aquarium. I then had another 30 minute wait for the blue route trolley. There is a nice visitor center next to the Aquarium ticket area. I spent the wait time enjoying looking at history of Gatlinburg through pictures and some artisans work on display.

The first scheduled event was a champagne reception Friday mid-afternoon. It was our first look at the wonderfully decorate event room. A Christmas tree with lights set up for us to decorate later. There was a table to place our ornament for the exchange later. There was a table with bubbly drinks – champagne and soda including the good Sweeps ginger ale. There were name tags up for each stocking hanger. There were vendor tables set up in front of windows for National Twilight Night and each Coven member to sell photographs and autograph them. I didn’t complete my personal assignment of printing out some of my pictures for them to sign. I did get their autographs at SMD 2014. The reception was a nice time to talk and meet people. I noticed that more people seemed to go introduce themselves than at the Stephenie Meyer Day celebration. The smaller group I think helps facilitate that along with the quieter room. 

The Friday evening dinner with a Cullen couple was too tightly scheduled. Time to gather up car pools and travel to restaurant was not allowed for. The dinners were signed up for before even leaving home. Jasper and Alice at the Alamo, where I went. Emmett and Rosalie at a BBQ place. Carlisle and Esme at a Mexican place. Edward and Bella at an Italian place. At least two places did not have room for the full number at one table. Everyone was seated close by though. 

The desert table when we got back was mouthwatering. Pecan pie, carrot cake, brownies, cakes and I can’t remember what all else. We decorated the Christmas tree. We had the ornament exchange and the ugly sweater contest. I picked an ornament from Salt Lake – salt crystals grown in shape of snow flake. Hope it arrives home in one piece. There were four finalists in the sweater contest. Then we voted with a dollar for favorite of the four until noon on Saturday. Alice was then to wear the winning one Saturday evening. 

Alice with the four finalists

There was a game of ‘gathering the witnesses’ for teams to work at. It was a scavenger hunt with a twist. I choose to sit this out as involved going outside and I was already starting to hurt from the long non-flat walk. It was a nice quiet time to talk with some others also sitting it out. There were a few people dancing while we waited for the teams to come back. There were questions so you not only had to gather the clues but answer the questions correctly. The teams all seemed to enjoy the romp. I enjoy the conversations.

National Twilight Night took over for some games. This lady was a little tired and sore and retired to my room. I am also not much of a party person especially if get rowdy and part of the crowd was already a little rowdy for me. I know I’m a stick in the mud. In the room I downloaded the pictures taken for the day. The internet connection wasn’t too bad most of the time. Facebook was a problem at times in not wanting to upload images.

It got really cold over night as there was frost everywhere and every morning you could see your breath. Saturday was shopping with Alice in the morning. We joined the group after getting another attendee a cane at Walgreens. She aggravated a fractured leg with a fall Friday evening. Another attendee offered to drive us down. Had a chance to chat with the driver while waiting for cane purchased. She did right well after that. We joined the rest of group at a nostalgic store. That was fun. One person caught me unawares of picture being taken. Someone else got a posed shot as arranging car pool to go downtown. I was called on to play photographer for some posed ones in a little red sleight with Alice, Jasper, Bella, and Edward. That was fun and enjoy sharing pictures.

After shopping and snow play time for some others, we had a catered lunch in the event room. It was a buffet potato and soup bar. Good selection of toppings. The chili was meat free and had rice. It was good, a bit different but good. There was a break for naps and getting ready for the big Christmas dinner.

Saturday evening was a buffet Christmas dinner - turkey, dressing, mashed potato, green beans, cranberry sauce, and desert. It was all good. Nice dinner conversation. Alice made her grand entrance with the winner of the ugly sweater contest. After dinner the stockings were passed out. There was one really impressive handmade gift – coasters of the book covers done by Alexia Rodriguez. There were lots of other neat things people made or wrapped pretty. I didn’t unwrap and look at most until Sunday. 
Alice wearing the winning ugly sweater
The tree was undecorated. There were posed pictures with the Cullen Family. The tables were all cleared off. Over flowing Stockings taken to rooms. After a little a break the Josh and Travis VIP Party Down South event started. Dancing and drinking and rowdy behavior. Josh and Travis each had come up with a special alcohol mixed drink. They were in containers like the lemonade and iced tea or punch containers on the other table. There was a nice selection of non-alcoholic drinks available – sparking ciders or sparkling non-alcoholic grape juice. The special drinks were not labeled alcoholic. From reports I heard, it is likely one attendee got very drunk on the alcoholic lemonade looking drink. I stayed for a while taking some pictures and talking to people. Conversation was more difficult with the loud music.

That is the end of the Cullens’ Winter Escape event. Sunday I got a roommate, Lyndy Sue Shields. We were going to hang out for rest of Sunday and Monday before taking me to airport Tuesday morning. We went for a drive on Sunday and met two other attendees at Golden Corral in Pigeon Forge. Good dinner and nice conversation. Monday I finished packing suitcase to ship home. Arrived with three and too many to handle. Stupid computer and stupid winter coat took up too much room. Only wore the coat once and only to say that I did – am kind of glad it was warm enough to just wear an additional layer with warm jacket.

We had lunner, midway between lunch and dinner, at Mellow Mushroom. Great pizza. Then we walked around the other half of downtown Gatlinburg in the evening. Found a suitable souvenir TShirt and we enjoyed the Hollywood car exhibit – Gibbs’ car out in front.

It was a great time. The Olympic Coven was fantastic as the Cullens and as themselves. I really enjoyed the time to visit with the ones I did. Also the chance to meet and talk with other fans was great. Big Thank you to the organizers! Best wishes and superior skill and cunning in your personal and professional lives to the cast members if this is the last time I get to see you. Thank you for all your work and bringing to life the book characters. It may seem strange to you because I don’t interact with the characters, but I really do enjoy your work. I’ve enjoyed the time to talk with some of you as yourselves. Wish had more time to talk with others. Tears come when words cannot adequately express the emotions. I need some tissues now.

Thank you to organizers, the cast, and other attendees for a wonderful time.

The Olympic Coven, Cosplayers

This is an expansion of what I posted on Facebook already. That started off as the final paragraph of my review and report on the Cullens’ Winter Escape event. The Olympic Coven (OC) deserves their own post on my blog. The OC is a group of actors that cosplay the characters from the Twilight Sage books. Cosplay with screen accurate costumes/hair and developing the character in ways to spontaneous interact with others of the group and the fans.

The book Twilight changed my life as it has for a lot of other people. The Olympic Coven has added to that change. Twilight is an emotional experience. Seeing the OC bring to life the characters is something of an emotional experience. Personally I’m not interested in interacting with the characters, but I love watching them interact among themselves and other fans. They act like a family, sibling teasing, parental monitoring at times. They are lively and fun and warm and caring to each other and the fans.

This group knows how to walk the line of being the character and being themselves when interacting with fans. Travis would never say some of the stupid thoughtless things that could pop out of Emmett’s mouth. Christilynn and Brynna are both a little standoffish in a way, but that is their character of Bella and Rosalie. Bella is shy, doesn’t want attention. Rosalie is fierce and protective and intimidating. Both actors show that side while also being open to talking with fans. Alan and Josh as Edward and Jasper do much the same. Travis is Emmett, fun and a big teddy bear with good hugs. Vee is Alice, very lively and enthusiastic and so much fun to watch and listen to her and Travis banter as siblings. Cay and Tori, for 2014, and the actors that portrayed Carlisle and Esme in 2013, are the calm around which the rest swirl. They are proper and stern and loving as Carlisle and Esme. Katie as Victoria is awesome. That stare will freeze anyone, never guess that Katie is an ER nurse. Those are the one I’ve had the most interaction or watched the most.

The two young ones I did not watch that much and only interacted once with them. Jacqueline as Bree managed that confused and fearful appearance. Samantha as Renesmee looked sweet and self confident. 

Stephenie Meyer Day 2013 was my introduction to Staci Chastain and the Olympic Coven. I don’t know much about the history before that. As a former con runner, I recognized Ms Chastain as the one in charge of getting and keeping the OC on time for their various appearances at SMD and being the one that made the arrangements for those appearances. There were some opportunities to talk with her that first year and off and on since then. She has done a marvelous job of gathering the cast members and associated staff for hair, makeup, and individual handlers; then working with some businesses in Forks to arrange appearances of the OC. They act like they’ve been together for longer than they have, especially with the new arrivals in 2014.

Some say that the cosplayers distract from the author and book celebration at Forks Washington. I think for most even if they don’t interact with the cast, the actors add to the experience of visiting any Twilight Saga site, be it Forks, St Helens, Portland area, or Vancouver BC area. They can’t move at vampire speed and they do need to eat human food, but seeing them together in the locations mentioned in the books adds a touch of magic.

I’ve worked at some media cons in the past and I’ve been to a lot of events with historical reenactors. I have not seen a group do such a wonderful consistent job at portraying the characters while also interacting with fans. They have brought a touch of magic to my life.

While this post is about the Olympic Coven, I cannot fail to mention that there were some other serious cosplayers that added to the magic at SMD 2014 and at CWE 2015. They are included in the list at bottom.

The future of the Olympic Coven is kind of up in the air currently. I am thankful I was able to attend the Cullens’ Winter Escape as that may be their last appearance together. I hope not. More people should have the opportunity of seeing them in action. A big Thank You to the cast for all your work, for giving up time from your life to entertain us, for money out of own pocket to be at these events, for that touch of magic.

Olympic Coven cast for SMD 2014 and * CWE 2015
*Alice Cullen – Vee Elle, Facebook – Vee Elle as Alice Cullen
*Bella Swan – Christilynn Swan, Facebook – Christilynn Swan
Bree Tanner – Jacqueline Brown, Facebook - Jacqueline as Bree new character for 2014
*Carlisle Cullen – Cay Percifield, Facebook – Cay Percifield as Carlisle Cullen
*Edward Cullen – Alan Mitchell, Facebook – Alan as Edward
*Emmett Cullen – Travis Shoaf, Facebook – Travis as Emmett
*Esme Cullen – Tori Giles, Facebook – Tori Giles as Esme Cullen
James – James Taylor
*Jasper Whitlock Hale – Josh Goff, Facebook – Josh Goff Productions
Renesmee Cullen – Samantha Baldwin, Facebook – Samantha as Nessie
*Rosalie Hale – Brynna Rowan, Facebook – Brynna as Rosalie or Doppelganger Cosplay
*Victoria – Katie Quinn Thornton, Facebook - Katie as Victoria

Other cos players
*New Moon Aro – Aro Maida
BD Alec – Robert Blair
*BD Aro – Shandra Mutchie, Facebook – Aro Romero Verispuci
BD Jane – Tiffany Lynn

CWE others:
Larkin Nash – Rene Swan, The Cullen Cars
Bryant Davis – Charlie Swan, Facebook – Russell Varon Cosplay

SMD 2013 cast had Jacob there and different Carlisle, Esme, and Rosalie.

Olympic Coven + visitors SMD2014

Olympic Coven + visitor CWE 2015

22 January 2015

Dream 10th Anniversary Celebration of Twilight

When it was announced that the Olympic Coven would be celebrating in St Helens Oregon in 2015, I got really excited. The actual film sites with the Olympic Coven would be a dream. Go to the film sites and reenact some scenes maybe and then maybe do some goofy things with it too. And what if they could get the director of Twilight movie Catherine Hardwicke there too. I’m dreaming a fangirl dream.

Add a layer in that dream that the city of Forks would get together and really support a celebration there the weekend before or after St Helens and get Stephenie Meyer to attend. Oh what a 10 year anniversary celebration that would be for the fans of the books and the movies.

Reports were that St Helens was working well with the Olympic Coven group and planning was proceeding in positive manner. Nothing was coming out of Forks for anything beyond a birthday cake celebration. Half of dream is better than none.

Then 30 December 2014 the dream is crushed. The St Helens plans have been sabotaged by petty and unprofessional actions from Forks Chamber of Commerce. Forks changed their plans and now want to throw a big celebration. They were unwilling to work with St Helens and the Olympic Coven to combine efforts on different weekends to make it a wonderful book and movie celebration. Stop and think, what that means to the fans and to the tourist dollars for St Helens and Forks and the surrounding area, it is beyond sad. It is tragic.

I am having a hard time dealing with the disappointment. I know my dream was a dream and not likely to happen, but it was a possibility. I do not trust the Forks Chamber of Commerce after their intentional sabotage of an event in a city four hours away. I do not believe the Forks Chamber of Commerce is really enthusiastic for the Stephenie Meyer Day celebration for the fans or as a tribute to Stephenie Meyer and Twilight. I do believe for the Forks Chamber of Commerce it is only about the money. They have been happy for the money brought into the area by the events Staci Chastain and the Olympic Coven have planned in the past, but have not shared that money with them.

There is added disappointment in the Twilight Forever event being planned in Gatlinburg Tn for August with the Olympic Coven. I wish they would use their time and energy and money in working with Forks to make that a better celebration. I can empathize with the East Coast fans liking a celebration closer to home for them and all of the OC members do live closer to Gatlinburg. I will miss them greatly in Forks. I want to be selfish and not share. I wish that event the best and hope I can be forgiven for wanting to be selfish. I will share information for that event, but not with much enthusiasm.

The Twilight Saga is an emotional experience. It has changed lives, mine included. I am disappointed in the unprofessional way the Forks Chamber of Commerce acted to sabotage the St Helens event. It is sad and tragic. There is time for my emotions to calm before SMD happens. It will not be the same without the Olympic Coven. I will miss them as the coven and the actors as friends.

It is very unlikely that I will be able to attend the August event. I am glad I had the opportunity of seeing most of the Olympic Coven one last time at the Cullens’ Winter Escape event and to thank them. They have given much pleasure in portraying the Cullen family as a family. Fun to watch them interacting as a family and with the nomads and Volturi guests. It has been a pleasure to talk with the actors as well. I wish all the best in their personal and professional lives. Be Safe. Live long and prosper. May the Force be with you. God bless you and yours. Take care.