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    Posted December 11, 2012 by
    chesapeake, Virginia
    This iReport is part of an assignment:
    'The Hobbit' is here!

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    Another Adventure

    Reading a story that a good friend posted has prompted me to write my own.

    On the subject of the Hobbit, let me tell you about my own adventure. This adventure, however, doesn’t just belong to me, but to many others as well. Others who I consider more than just friends or fellows who share my interests - These amazing people are my family.

    I have loved the works of Tolkien for many years. I read The Hobbit when I was fairly young and had seen the animations. I’ve read Lord of the Rings and saw the movies a total of 32 times (collectively) in theaters, and countless times after they were released on DVD. I’ve pushed through the Silmarillion and various other works, and watched dozens of documentaries. This is as far as most people delve into their fandoms, because most are not aware of the subculture that exists at conventions.

    Conventions are events that are held where fans can gather to celebrate the things they love with a group of like-minded individuals. Sometimes we even play dress up. I have been a part of the ‘convention-scene’ for years now. And Lord of the Rings had been featured to some degree at several of them – a panel here or there, an actor that would come as a guest, etc. However this changed forever in 2008 when a Hobbit and wise Wizard got together and decided that they too wanted more.

    This dynamic duo created an event they called A Long Expected Party, or ALEP, if you will. It was to be a place where fans could gather and share their love of Tolkien in a more intimate environment. ALEP was held in the beautiful countryside of Harrodsburg, KY, at the Shaker Village at Pleasant Hill. This place has since become known to us as the Shire, a place we’ve even called ‘home’. But it’s not just the locations natural beauty and serene atmosphere that makes it home for us, but the people. In a total of four days we put on panels, workshops, went on hikes, put on skits, ate, drank, and sang together. In four days a group of people went from strangers to family. All because we cherished the things that Tolkien himself valued. I have been to many conventions and various events and nothing compared to the joy of being with this particular group of people. You will never find a more generous, caring, and light-hearted bunch that can show you family doesn’t end with blood.
    At the end of the weekend we were sad to part but it was inevitable. However it wouldn’t be for long.

    In 2011 we went There and Back again and had an encore of our first event. It was bigger and better than the first, if you can imagine, and only brought us closer together. It was truly a life-changing event for those who attended, as any of them will tell you. And we can’t wait to be together again at AL3P in 2014.

    To hold us over until then a large group of us will be making yet another trip to the beautiful Shaker Village to attend the premier of the Hobbit together, decked out in our finest middle-Earth attire. My bags are packed and I am counting down the days until I begin my nearly ten hour roadtrip. Some of you may think that this seems a silly amount of effort just for a movie. But this isn’t just a movie for me, it’s much more. It’s an opportunity for a family reunion and an enriching experience I’m likely to remember until the day I die. So I will drive through the night just to spend a weekend in our own little shire, and we will be at the theater early to play games with and greet the public to try and share a little of our own experiences so they too can understand why we are so passionate about everything Tolkien has given us. Some stories stay with you for a lifetime and some encourage you to live your own.

    “If more of us valued food and cheer above hoarded gold, it would be a much merrier world.”
    ― J.R.R. Tolkien
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