The Virtual Fest For Beatles Fans Chicago

Hello everyone, I hope you are all having a great day so far.

I have been a huge fan of The Beatles since I was 12. I have not been to The Fest For Beatles Fans physically because I have never been to the US. In fact, I have never been outside of Europe. This year, the Fest has been happening virtually on Zoom because of the coronavirus pandemic. The Fest usually happens in March/April in New York and August in Chicago every year.

The Fest For Beatles Fans started in 1974 by an American fan called Mark Lapidos. He was a manager of a record store in New York and a huge Beatles fan. Mark wanted to celebrate the 10th anniversary of The Beatles first arriving in America, so he decided to create a weekend convention in Manhattan for fans. He booked all the convention halls at the Commodore Hotel in New York for a weekend in early September. He also wanted to get the blessings of the band for the event.

On Sunday April 28th 1974, he went to a March of Dimes Walkathon in Central Park that John Lennon was attending with his friend Harry Nilsson. Through luck and determination, Mark found his way to the Pierre Hotel where John was staying. He knocked on the door and was kindly entered in. Mark spoke to John about his idea. John’s response was: “I’m all for it! I’m a Beatles fan too!” After the support from John, the first Fest was held in New York in September 1974. It was a huge success. Over 8000 Beatles fans attended. It was approved by all four Beatles. They all donated instruments to be auctioned for charity. Rolling Stone magazine featured a cover story on the Fest in October that year. After the success, it was natural that the Fest continued. It had become the key part of The Beatles fan experience in America. The Fests took place in major US cities. In 1975, Mark invited his new girlfriend Carol to that year’s fest. They married in 1976 and have organised every Fest since. Before they got married, they met up with Paul and Linda McCartney in Paris. Paul was already aware of The Fest through John. A few months later, Mark met up with George Harrison in LA and received his blessing for the first West Coast Fest that took place in November that year. From the very start, The Fest attracted not just first-generation Beatles fans from the 60s, but younger fans who just discovered the band. The Fest has been attended by fans of all ages and demographics.

The virtual fest happened from Friday 7th to Sunday 9th August. The ticket cost $44.00 including additional fees at $4.00 (£37.65 in total) for the entire weekend. I thought it was a good price. I was excited about experiencing the event for the first time.

There were 5 different Zoom rooms: The Main Stage Zoom Webinar, Paperback Writer, Marketplace, Faboratory and Apple Jam Stage.

At 4pm (UK time) in the Faboratory room on Saturday 8th, I did Beatles Yoga with band and solo music playing in the background. I thought it was relaxing, but I prefer to do yoga in person. Afterwards, I did a bit of Beatles Zumba which was fun.

At 7pm in the Paperback Writer room, Beatles tour guides David Bedford, Susan Ryan, Richard Porter and Simon Weitzman spoke about Beatles Tourism in Liverpool, Hamburg, London and New York. I enjoyed the session and I told them about my trip to Liverpool in February.

On the Main Stage, I saw a great presentation about Let It Be by American Beatles author, Bruce Spizer. I also saw an interview with George Harrison’s sister-in-law Jennie Boyd and a video with musician Donovan. At 9pm, there was also a conversation with Chris Murray. He talked about his new book about George called ‘Be Here Now’.

At 10pm afterwards, British Beatles expert and historian, Mark Lewisohn did an hour segment called ‘Objective History’ where fans can show a Beatles related object. If Mark knows, he will tell the story behind it for 5 minutes. There were stories about objects from the ‘Give My Regards To Broad Street’ era and a Beatles Canadian flag. There was also a story about a 12″ inch Beatles ruler from 1964. On the back of the ruler, there were statistics about each Beatle. There were also nicknames. John was ‘The Sexy Beatle’, Paul was ‘The Bouncy Beatle’, George was ‘Just a Beatle-Beatle’ (which I found strange) and Ringo was ‘The Quiet Beatle’. Tony Barrow, the band’s press officer, thought Ringo was more the quiet one than George because in the early days Ringo would be silent unless he was spoken to. Mark owns a ‘Good News’ chocolate box from the 60s. He showed it to us. There is a story that George wrote ‘Savoy Truffle’ from the names inside the box lid. Mark also screen-shared the first ever fan club advertisement. Before the Official Beatles Fan Club started, three girls from St Helens started one up and they would take this notice with them to any gigs to advertise it. This included trips to local gigs including The Cavern Club. There are details about how the fan club came to be (including Bob Wooler’s part in the story) and comments from the girls in Mark’s fantastic Tune In book.

At 6pm on Sunday 9th at the Main Stage, there was an introduction to the Fest. At 6.15, there was a Beatles 1965 Help! presentation by American John Lennon expert, Jude Southerland-Kessler. At 7pm, there was a talk with Freda Kelly who was The Beatles Official fan club secretary.

At 8pm in the Paperback Writer room, there was a talk about the multicultural influences of John, Paul, George and Ringo’s solo work hosted by the people who run the podcast ‘Talk More Talk’ which is about analysing the solo music. It was great to listen to some snippets and share our opinions in the chat section.

At 9pm, there was a talk about Beatles related US fan clubs in the 60s hosted by Sara Schmidt who runs the brilliant site.

At 10pm, I participated in the talk about the recent reissues of the Flaming Pie album which originally came out in 1997. I have the 2CD edition and it’s one of Paul’s best albums.

I thought the Fest was fantastic and I enjoyed interacting with fans.

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