A warm day in a green glade among the redwoods, tables loaded with good food, the fellowship of other Tolkien fans….What could be nicer?

Today was the pot-luck picnic and lembas bake-off in San Francisco’s Stern Grove, and it was a lot of fun – the most LOTR fun we’ve had in ages. It was great to finally put real faces to screen nicknames for the first time, in a friendly atmosphere where it snowed food and rained drink, as they say.

The local members of Cloondara Shire from the Society for Creative Anachronism were a big help (as well as being nice folks), as they had a medieval-looking shade tent and they also were generous in the loaning out of armour and padded weapons. The kids had endless fun issuing heroic challenges and whopping each other with battleaxes, which left the adults free to party as they pleased.

The lembas bake-off was won by a shortbread type of confection, slightly crunchy and not too sweet. Apologies because I forget the name of the winner!

Actually a lot of us didn’t know each other well because this was a LOTR gathering that attracted people from many different websites – TORN, TORC, Imladris and even people who don’t go online at all – and that made it all the more fun, since of course we had more in common than not.
We’re planning to meet for other events in the near future – another LOTR showing in a classic cinema with couches, and a DVD release party were both ideas that were thrown around. The fact is that by now, six months after the release of the first film, we are getting slightly bored and antsy with the lack of real news. Everyone who’s bought toys has played with them, we’ve read all the books we can get our hands on, and now seems a good time to build on the relationships we’ve built up on the various messageboards and chatrooms we inhabit.

TORN didn’t organise this picnic – it was thought up by members of the messageboards on TORN and the White Council, if I remember rightly, and the idea became popular there before TORN got involved by mentioning it on the front page. The Cloondara Shire people were great to have there too as they are Tolkien fans almost by definition and their SCA hobbies give them lots of practice at organising outdoor events.

A number of people have written from all over the place asking why TORN doesn’t organise a LOTR picnic in their area, and my answer is, we didn’t organise this one. It ‘just happened,’ though of course Yarrow and others worked to make it happen. The thing you need to have to make it ‘just happen’ is a network of local LOTR fans built up through chatroom and messageboard connections. A party invite for your local LOTR fans will have more success if you’re somebody who’s participated in discussions and is therefore known to the others – I doubt people will flock to the banner of somebody they’ve never seen before announcing a LOTR picnic on their messageboard. Another great resource is the Society for Creative Anachronism since they have branches or ‘Shires’ all over the world and are quite likely to be interested in helping with and enjoying your LOTR event.

So, get out and play. Don’t sit at home staring at the screen! Make the Net work for you and organise your own LOTR event.