The good news: It appears that Midwest Furfest was bigger than ever (5600+ attendees, almost 1600 fursuits in the parade, $62,000 raised for this year's charity "Save-a-Vet".
The bad news: Though I'd agreed to do a panel with Sparf and Tempe O'Kun, and did register for the con, when push came to shove it was simply not practical for me to get there. I had originally thought I could just drive down for Saturday, but it turns out that parking is non-existent or quite expensive in the area, and dubious at night. The panel was from 8 to 9 pm on Saturday, which would have meant returning alone in the dark to a remote parking lot to drive back home.
I don't much care for driving to begin with, and in a congested unfamiliar area, in the dark, this didn't sound at all appealing. So I thought maybe public transportation would be better. Well, it's theoretically possible to get to the convention hotel from my home if I take Metra commuter rail from Woodstock to Jefferson Park in Chicago, and then transfer to the CTA Blue line to get to Rosemont. It's about a quarter mile walk from the station to the hotel. This would have been workable except that the weekend train schedules are sparse (to put it politely) and with the panel ending at 9 pm, there was only a single train to get me back to Woodstock. Miss that connection for any reason (and there are many possible reasons, from time overruns to a CTA delay which is fairly common) and I'd have been stranded. Even if it worked, I would have gotten back to Woodstock after midnight, and likely have had to stand around in a nearly deserted station at Jefferson Park for 30-40 minutes which is never a pleasant prospect after dark. I've had unpleasant and near-disastrous experiences with that before.
So in the end, I gave up on the whole idea. I felt bad about backing out of the panel, of course, but I knew that Sparf and Tempe would manage it just fine. So I sent my apologies and missed the entire convention. The last time I actually attended MWFF was in 2008. The con has nearly quadrupled in size since then, which is good I guess, but makes it so big that I'm reluctant to go at all. This experience makes it even less likely that I'll try again. Friends who were actually there found the crowds so oppressive at times that they had to leave the hotel to find open and relatively quieter space. I'm very prone to claustrophobia, so avoiding such scenes is probably a better choice for me. I was looking forward to the art show, and a chance to hear Fox Amoore live as well as seeing some friends from out of state, but it didn't work out.
On the other hoof, I did get to attend two of my husband's three live performances that took place this weekend. I would have missed those had I gone to the convention. Saturday morning he was with the Kishwaukee Ramblers at the Woodstock Farmers' Market. That evening the Ramblers appeared again at the Boone County Conservation District's annual Christmas Walk in Belvidere. The setting for that event is a park that includes some historic cabins and a one room schoolhouse that has been reconstructed on the site. The Ramblers played in the schoolhouse by lamplight, where visitors to the park could stop for refreshments and warm drinks after touring the cabins and the blacksmith shop along trails illuminated by luminaria set along the ground. Here is a photo of the 19th century schoolhouse setting, with my husband Gary on the left playing concertina and hammered dulcimer.