Every year as I reflect on RobinsonFest, I wonder if the next year could possibly be as fun as the previous. And now, a few days post-event, I find myself pondering the same thing. It was a smaller group this year, but that did nothing to diminish the good times, tasty food, adventurous outings, or quality time with the world’s best fans. If anything, it let me connect a bit deeper with people, and really gave me time to get to know our newcomers, who I now look forward to seeing every year.
This year, I said goodbye to my fans-turned-friends, the RobinsonFesters…wait, do we still not have a better name than that?! Because, eww. Anywho, after saying goodbye, what I feel most this year is pride. Not in the event itself, or the places we visit, or the food we eat, or what a dashingly handsome host I am. What I’m most proud of is the people who attend. Our regular attendees are always welcoming, loving, and generous to newcomers, and the result is that new folks, who might feel awkward and far out of their comfort-zone, are made to feel at home on the very first night…if not within minutes.
When hosting an intimately-sized group of strangers, there is a lot that could go wrong, but from the very first RobinsonFest, there has been a camaraderie that has little to do with a mutual love for my books, and everything to do with the kind of people who attend. My novels might be what brings people to RobinsonFest, but it’s the people who make it special.
When I was a kid, my parents took our family to spend a long weekend at a kid’s campground before the season kicked off. I had attended the camp the year before and had memories of games, hikes, pranks and new friends. While the picturesque campground looked the same, it felt wrong. The people—the real heart and soul of that place—were missing. I spent those days feeling detached and longing for absent friends.
In the wake of RobinsonFest, I feel a similar sense of something missing. As I visit Portsmouth and the surrounding area, some instinctual part of my brain says, “Go to the hotel and see everyone!” Then the conscious part of my brain realizes that’s not possible, that if I went to the amazing Homewood Suites, the place would feel like an empty, soulless husk. I have never walked through those doors and not been greeted by a smile and a hug. It’s odd to feel that kind of an attachment to a hotel, but after this year’s RobinsonFest, I think stopping by the hotel would feel a lot like that bittersweet campground visit.
That is the quality and intensity of the relationships forged at RobinsonFest. Writing that feels like an exaggeration, and I imagine a lot of people reading this will think I’m simply promoting the event, but I think everyone who attended will agree.
While we visited some amazing places (the Mount Washington cruise and Franconia Notch Echo Lake), participated in some fun activities (Hilltop Fun Center and Butternut Farm) those events weren’t the weekend’s highlight. The people were. The closest comparison is a family reunion. While many people have attended multiple years, and they keep in touch throughout the year, new attendees are welcomed with open arms (literally) and are made part of the family.