Set Sail with Outlandish Gatherings—now in its third year! The four-day nautical-themed weekend is based on Voyager, the third book of Diana Gabaldon’s genre-bending Outlander Series. Popular Outlander cast members Grant O’Rourke (Rupert) and Stephen Walters (Angus) will both make appearances at the Gathering along with other special guests.
This year’s event takes place in beautiful coastal Georgia, where storm-tossed protagonists Jamie and Claire Fraser find themselves washed ashore in the American colonies at the end of Voyager. The Gathering will be held in Savannah, October 7-10, 2016 and headquartered at the Hyatt Regency Savannah in the Riverfront District, with additional accommodations provided by the nearby Hotel Indigo on Ellis Square. The city of Savannah won out over Newport, RI and New Orleans, LA based on the results of a survey of previous Gathering attendees.
A Busy Weekend of Events
After registration on Friday afternoon at the Hyatt Regency Savannah, the weekend kicks off with a chartered dinner cruise aboard the three-decked riverboat Savannah River Queen, featuring southern cuisine, music, dancing, and ice-breaking events to help everyone to get to know one another better. (The Savannah River Boat Company was just rated the #1 Sightseeing Cruise in America for 2016 by Leisure Group Travel magazine.)
On Saturday’s excursion to Tybee Island, participants will explore the beachfront community and enjoy the island’s annual Tybee Island Pirate Fest, which includes a thieves market, parade, costumes, and live music. As the sun prepares to set, Outlander fans will find themselves at the Tybee Island Light Station, a colonial era lighthouse near North Beach, for a private Shipwreck Party under an immensebanquet tent decorated for the theme. Fans will mingle with Outlander cast members O’Rourke and Walters while enjoying live music and entertainment and a Low Country Boil and Southern BBQ, prepared onsite by BLocal Catering. Period costumes and kilts are encouraged for the shipwreck “survivors”—whether they be dressed as 18th century passengers, sailors, naval officers, pirates, or privateers. Additional guests include multi-instrumentalist/singer/actor Elias Alexander and Outlander Gaelic consultant Àdhamh Ó Broin, both of whom are making a return visit to the Gathering.
On Sunday, O’Rourke, Walters, and Ó Broin will be featured at a “Lunch with the Highlanders” at the Hyatt Regency Savannah, with VIPs seated at tables with one of the special guests. There are also “Meet & Greet” sessions before and after the luncheon where attendees will receive an autographed print of the actors and a photo opportunity with each of them. An intimate VIP “Scotch Talk” at Garibaldi’s will include the cast members and a Master Class whisky tasting sponsored by The Balvenie US. In the evening, a Ghosts & Gravestones trolley tour will introduce guests to the macabre and supernatural history of America’s most haunted city.
The Monday of the Gathering falls on Columbus Day, and guests will participate in a fundraising walk for World Child Cancer. This will be Outlandish Gathering’s third year raising money for the London-based non-profit that provides diagnosis, treatment, and palliative care for children living in developing nations. Outlander star Catriona Balfe (Claire Fraser) is a patron of the organization, which has enjoyed support from fans around the world. The walk will allow participants to see a number of Savannah’s points of architectural and historical significance. Those not attending the Gathering are encouraged to support the “Power of 10 Challenge” by encouraging ten friends to donate $10 to World Child Cancer via the Gathering’s JustGiving page: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Outlandish-Gatherings1.
With staff and special guests, more than 360 attendees from five countries, 36 states, and the District of Columbia are currently registered for Outlandish Gathering 2016. All 300 initial spots for the Gathering sold out in less than three weeks—before the cast appearances were even announced. This prompted organizers to open another 50 spots once O’Rourke and Walters were confirmed. The four-day event has been sold out since the end of February, with more than four dozen remaining on the waitlist. If additional attendees can be accommodated, spots will be offered to those on the waitlist on a first come, first served basis—so interested parties should add their names to the list as soon as possible: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/outlandish-gatherings-savannahtybee-island-tickets-21051658076.
Previous Gatherings Outlandish Gathering 2015 followed a French Dragonfly in Amber theme and was held last August in Quebec City, Canada during the city’s annual Les Fêtes de la Nouvelle-France celebration, and the first-ever Outlandish Gathering was held May 2-4, 2014 in Boston, Massachusetts. Founded in August, 2013, Outlandish Gatherings was the first to organize a “for fans, by fans” gathering for Outlander fans and has grown to be the largest four-day Outlander fan event in the world. At the helm are director April Steele, event manager, Jennifer Veach, operations manager Trisha Mandel and graphic designer Audrey Landry.
The average cost per person for this four-day Gathering and all general events is $560 per person, including registration (this does not include travel, accommodations, or VIP events which have limited capacity).
About the Book
Fans of the series know Voyager continues the story of time-traveler Claire with her return to 18th century Scotland and her Highlander husband, Jamie, 20 years after he sent her back to 1948 to bear their child in safety before he prepares to die at the Battle of Culloden. After attending medical school and raising their daughter Brianna to adulthood, Claire has learned that Jamie did not die at Culloden after all. She decides to brave the perilous journey through the enigmatic standing stones that allow her to travel back 200 years in time. Reunited with Jamie, their happiness is short-lived; they are soon on a high sea adventure in search of Jamie’s fourteen-year-old nephew, Ian, who has been abducted by pirates aboard the Bruja, a Portuguese ship headed for the West Indies. Pursued by a British man-o-war decimated by smallpox, Jamie and Claire find themselves separated once again. After adventures on Hispanola and Jamaica the voyagers find themselves making a hasty escape aboard a “stolen” pinnace, once again chased by the British Navy. Their small craft manages to escape the hulking British ship with the aid of a powerful storm that blows them off-course and run aground on the coast of the Colony of Georgia in a political climate that heralds the coming of yet another rebellion.
The Outlandish Gathering team will be participating in Tartan Week Festivities as part of Outlanders United. We are sponsoring Outlanders United’s sold out Saturday night screening of the second season preimiere of Outlander and will have a vendor table in the lobby at the Directors Guild of America Theater.
We are selling button boosters for $10 with a free raffle ticket for a handmade Outlander quilt designed by Karen Boilard. We also have cork “Fraser et Cie” coasters available for $6 each or 2 for $10, Voyager-themed Ship’s Log Books for $20 each, and samples of L’Heur Blue cologne for $10 each. All proceeds go towards defraying travel and accommodations for Outlandish Gatherings 2016 special guests, Grant O’Rourke, Stephen Walters, Adhamh O’Broin and Elias Alexander.
Our volunteer team will be out and about selling buttons and coasters throughout the week, and the gorgeous quilt will be on tour too. Pictures don’t do it justice–so make sure to see it in person. Keep an eye peeled for April Steele, Jennifer Veach, Trisha Mandel, Karen Boilard, Diana Rotelli and our team of volunteers if you’d like to buy a booster button or a coaster. Many thanks to Audrey Landry for her beautiful designs on the booster buttons and coasters!
We’ll also be signing up sponsors and advertisers for Outlandish Gatherings 2016 and taking applications for vendors who wish to exhibit at the Gathering in Savannah in October. Though we are at capacity, we will be directing anyone who is interested in attending to add themselves to our wait list at: OG2016 Waitlist
If you are interested in more information on becoming a sponsor, advertiser or onsite vendor please CLICK HERE
See you in New York!
Overlooking the Savannah River and well-situated among the shops at River Street, the upscale Hyatt Regency Savannah is nowunder contract for our 3rd annual Outlandish Gathering, October 7-10, 2016. We’ll have a link available soon for online reservations and there should be plenty of double-doubles available for pairs who prefer not to share a bed, or to accommodate quad occupancy for those trying to conserve costs.
We are hard at work on our itinerary. In the works are a welcome dinner cruise aboard a riverboat, a tour of haunted Savannah, a daytrip to Tybee Island for their annual Pirate Fest (costumes encouraged, but not required), a shipwreck party, and an Outlander themed luncheon at our hotel. Details and a pricing outline will be available before registration starts at the end of the month.
Pencil us in for Columbus Day Weekend 2016! We are currently reviewing proposals from the three cities you identified as the ones you’d most like to visit for a Gathering. These cities include Savannah/Tybee Island, Georgia; Newport, Rhode Island, and New Orleans, Louisiana.
Our 3rd Annual Outlandish Gathering will focus on Voyager, book 3 of the Outlander Series. All three of your pick cities have a strong seafaring tradition dating back to colonial times. As always, we will be looking for the best value for your travel dollar, but also opportunities for us to immerse ourselves in the timeless history of our host city and activities that will celebrate our mutual love of the books and TV series that brings us all together.
Watch this space for additional information, coming soon! And be sure to follow us on Twitter at @OutlandishGath and on Facebook at Outlandish Gatherings.
Diner en Blanc Boston 2015 Takes over Boston City Hall
by April Steele
French import, Le Dîner en Blanc, returned to Boston last Thursday night after a 2 year absence. Attendees of the secretive pop-up picnic never know where it will be held until the last minute. Though attendance is mandatory for confirmed guests, heavy rains caused a rash of last minute cancelations from those put-off by the prospect of Le Dîner sous la Pluie. Heartier members, who honored their social contract, found their commitment rewarded with a sheltered location in the courtyard beneath BostonCity Hall in Government Center.
The guests, who are required to dress in white from head-to-toe and to bring their own tables, chairs, elegant place settings and picnic suppers, came prepared with white or transparent umbrellas with matching rain ponchos. Guests queued in staging areas throughout Boston and Cambridge awaiting further direction from volunteers, each responsible for guiding 50 guests to the mystery location. Due to the intermittent rain, traffic was more snarled than usual and guests struggled to reach their rush hour meeting locations. Many took advantage of DEB Boston’s partnership with Luxe Valet, an ingenious alternative to car parking that utilizes a smart phone app to unite drivers with uniformed valets who will meet your car anywhere within Luxe’s service area, take your car and park it, and then return it to you wherever you may be. As we headed into Boston, we keyed our meeting destination into the app and were assigned a valet named Mustafa who was waiting for us curbside at the corner of State and Kilby Streets. We unloaded our bulky cart, table and chairs, handed our keys to our courteous valet and congratulated ourselves for not having to stress about finding a place to park, and for not having to drag all of our things from a parking garage to our meet up spot. (Even better, another valet met us at Government Center to pick us up at the end of the evening. Had we parked in the State Street Garage, we would have been schlepping all of our things on the ten minute walk back to our car.)
My first Dîner en Blanc experience was in 2012 when the event debuted in Boston. My husband and I had such a great time, I was disappointed that it didn’t return in subsequent years. When news was finally announced that we would have an event this year, I was quick to sign on as a volunteer. In my capacity as a pedestrian/table leader, it was my job to communicate with the 48 other guests that would occupy our bank of 50 tables, and to guide them from a predetermined meet up point to our ultimate location. Even volunteers are kept in the dark about the dinner’s location until about an hour ahead of time. I left my husband waiting on our designated street corner to welcome our guests while I dashed to a nearby address to get our “marching orders” from our group leader. This included a schematic of where we were to set up our tables at City Hall Plaza and a departure time for our group to leave—as groups were staggered to arrive at 5 minute intervals.
As Bostonians emptied out of their offices at 5PM, they encountered increasing numbers of white-clad couples dragging folding tables and chairs or pushing carts overflowing with cascading white flowers and picnic baskets and table linens. One of the guests in my group had managed to get all of their picnic items into a hiking backpack with a rolltop table and folding chairs strapped to his back. Others had hampers and luggage carts and dollies with bungee cords securing their equipment. I checked each guest’s ID, checked them off my list, distributed white wristband (which served as tickets) and fielded a few phone calls from frantic guests still stranded in traffic. We lined up on State Street, under our umbrellas, taking care to leave the sidewalks and business entrances clear, as workers hurrying home gawked at us as they skirted puddles and avoided the spray of water from taxis and trucks.
If you’ve ever admired the whimsical fascinators or elaborate hats worn to royal weddings, the Kentucky Derby or polo matches, here was your chance to wear such confections as ladies flocked together in feathered headpieces, tiaras and flowered wide-brimmed hats. I have to tip my own hat to Montreal designer Nina Wozniak who created my plumed fascinator which featured a miniature white table set with a candelabra, wine and cheese plate!
Not to be outdone by the women, the men in our party were also a fashionable sight to behold. Handsome husbands David and Kevin were dressed identically in white pants and matching Ralph Lauren Polo shirts, Richard looked on point in a white-knit skullcap that suited him to a T, Greg sported white gloves, and my own husband, Joe, looked cool in a summer weight sweater from Calvin Klein.
Guests who had begun to become acquainted online chatted in line while they waited for me to lead them to the mystery location. At four minutes before 6 o’clock, I started leading us to Government Center. Because I had worked on State Street, I knew the most direct route to take to minimize stairs and street-crossings, so we wouldn’t further impede traffic. However, we arrived on the plaza well ahead of the groups that were supposed to be there before us. I admit that I had a moment’s panic! Where was everyone? Fortunately a police officer on security detail signaled us to ascend a ramp leading up to an elevated courtyard beneath City Hall where we were instructed to set up our tables.
Boston’s City Hall is easily the ugliest building I’ve ever seen. The concrete slab monstrosity constructed in the Brutalist architectural design looks for all the world like a parking garage. I was not aware that there was a courtyard there. The billowing white table linens, flickering (battery operated) candles, and artistic floral arrangements juxtaposed against the severity of the thick concrete walls worked, somehow. The cold, austere courtyard was transformed into a scene of ethereal beauty and elegance.
Tablescapes ranged from simple and sophisticated hydrangea blooms in crystal vases with tapered candles, to elaborate constructions with hanging chandeliers or lanterns and balloon arches. One of my favorite activities is to wander around the venue and admire the different table settings, cut crystal, vases and flowers. No matter how eclectic the displays, each is a work of art, chosen with thought and care and a respect for the spirit of the evening. Together, they are unified by the all-white color scheme, bringing all of us together for a communal experience that celebrates each other, and the appreciation of good food, good wine and good company.
At the front of the courtyard, we had a low wall affording us a terraced view of City Hall Plaza, the puddled pavement mirroring Government Center like a reflecting pool. With the city lights diffused by the mist, the rain-slicked cement gave the illusion of a moat around a fairytale castle fortress. The White Heat swing orchestra filled the air with the sounds of celebration, accented by the tinkling of stemware as revelers toasted one another. Lanson Champagne, Whitehaven and Apothic wines were available from the event sponsors if purchased ahead of time—those who neglected to order in advance relied on the kindness of strangers for a bit of bubbly or vino.
To signal the start of dinner, guests swirled white napkins. Some beautiful food was shared. Though many different catered baskets were offered as a convenience, the serious foodies were out in force with charcuterie and crudités and all sorts of cheese, heirloom tomatoes with basil, duck confit, and oysters. I prepared skewers of different types of grape tomatoes with fresh mozzarella, salt and cracked-pepper encrusted beef tenderloin with horse radish cream sauce and roasted garlic potatoes (kept warm in a thermos.) For dessert I brought white merengue cookies to share and homemade tiramisu topped with fresh whipped cream. The catered baskets truly paled in comparison to the meals consumed by those who put in a little time and effort. The purchased meals had meager portions and were not a good value for the prices paid. Fortunately, new friends were happy to share with those with less bountiful baskets.
After dinner, the waving of fiber optic “Sparkler” wands heralded the opening of the dance floor. (Though they do not provide quite the same visual effect as authentic sparklers, they are a safe alternative to those banned under Massachusetts’s fireworks prohibition.) The dancefloor, set up toward the back of the courtyard, was open to the weather through a center skylight. The gentle spritz of rain was refreshing to those dancing to Latin rhythms as a DJ called out the steps to those unfamiliar with salsas and merengues.
Dîner en Blanc grows exponentially each year, with an ever widening circle of friends receiving invites. According to tradition, ticketed guests are “commanded” to attend and no shows are struck from future invite lists, as are those that do not respect the dress code. Members in good standing are re-invited and allowed to sponsor a pair of guests who in turn can invite another couple, and so on. The best part of Dîner en Blanc is the sense of community it inspires. Fifteen-hundred strangers from diverse ethnic and cultural backgrounds gathered together to share their mutual joie de vivre.
Though the picnic may appear spontaneous to observers, this impression could not be further from the truth. Attendees put a lot of advanced preparation into the evening. While finding white clothing is usually easy at end-of-summer clearance sales, finding white footwear, accessories and easily transportable tables and chairs is another story. Many who waited until the last minute found rolltop tables out of stock at Amazon.com and at local brick and mortar stores. The good news is, those who purchased items for this year’s event will be in good shape for next summer.
If it all sounds like too much trouble, and you can’t imagine adhering to a strict dress code or spending money to eat your own dinner among hundreds of strangers, this is probably not the event for you. But if you enjoy making an effort to share a magical evening with others who appreciate the traditions, you’ll find that Dîner en Blanc exceeds all expectations.