It was nearly a perfect New Orleans night. It was warm but not overwhelmingly so because of the heavy thunderstorms that had moved through the area that afternoon. Those same thunderstorms left the air a bit thick and humid, an invitation to sit on the porch and while the evening away with friends.
And what better porch to chose than The Columns Hotel on St. Charles Avenue where you can enjoy a drink while you listen to the streetcars rattle by.
See that table on the right in the picture above? There's something familiar about that group - I wonder who they are?
As you get closer you see that they're deep in conversation. But then someone waves and invites you to join them...
Yes, it's a Kossack Meetup, New Orleans style.
The meetup was on Thursday July 19th and it exceeded all of my expectations. A total of eleven people showed up and we had a great time. One of the most gratifying things for me was hearing so many of the group saying that they had never met another Kossack and were excited to finally do so.
First to arrive was Crashing Vor and his lovely bride cv lurking gf who is now in need of a new screen name. Crashing Vor's diaries are regularly found on the Rec list and I'm not alone in hoping that someday we'll find that Kos has invited him to join the other front pagers. Still, all of that Kos-fame hasn't gone to his head and he kept his face squarely behind his hat whenever the camera turned his way.
The last thing that I expected was to draw out a pair of lurkers here on Daily Kos. Kelly and his wife are both regular readers of Daily Kos but don't post so we had no idea that they were coming. It was really great to have them come out and join us.
The prize for most dedicated attendee goes to BlueMississippi who works a 4/10 schedule in Vicksburg and who drove over 200 miles after work to be there. Seated next to her was CentristAndProud who also took time out of a busy work schedule to meet the group.
NewOrleansDem responded to an early diary that I had posted about the meetup, saying that he was hoping to be able to attend. Fortunately he did and here he is (on the right) with his partner. (Matt? I should have taken notes because it was almost guaranteed that I'd forget at least one name.)
One of the cool moments of the evening was CentristAndProud and NewOrleansDem realizing that they had attended the same high school and actually new each other back then.
Here we have luckydog and NolaDerf. It was luckydog's encouragement that got me started writing diaries here on Daily Kos and it was a pleasure to finally meet him - five years after he planted that seed. And NolaDerf was the one who said something that stuck with me that evening. We were talking about the numbers of New Orleanians who had been blown far and wide by Katrina and he pointed out the influx of younger people in the years since. He said that just like all the other waves of people who have come to the city during it's history they won't be 100% New Orleanians - but their children will be and they will be the ones who keep the city alive. I certainly hope that he's right.
I even managed find time to make it into one of the pictures. See that guy in the background wearing the white shirt and partially obscured by CentristAndProud? That's yours truly, the representative of the Pacific Northwest Chapter of NOLA Kossacks.
When I first started down the path that led to this meetup I really had no idea what I was doing. I knew that I was going to be in the New Orleans area in mid July and I posted a comment in one of Crashing Vor's diaries asking if anyone would be interested in a meetup. Louie (Crashing Vor) was kind enough to send me a note via Kos mail with his cell number and saying that he'd be up for it. With that bit of encouragement I started to post a series of diaries trying to gauge the interest for getting together.
My idea was to post a diary each day, staggering the time that they were posted to try and maximize the number of people who saw them. As you might expect, a single diary whizzing by on the Recent Diaries list is hardly an effective way of getting the word out. The diaries would get two or three recommendations and a comment or two and that would be it. One of the things that kept me at it was Crashing Vor very publicly saying that yes, he would be there.
My plan to stagger the diaries also ran into the problem of trying to actually get them published when I intended. At first I tried to simply remember when to publish them but the demands of work (not to mention being two time zones later) conspired against me. Finally it dawned on me that I could use the tools provided by Daily Kos to solve that problem and schedule the diary to publish without me being there to hit the button. Amazing, no?
About the same time I saw a comment in one of those diaries by poligirl saying that she had republished it to the Louisiana Kossacks group and another lightbulb went off. For those of you trying to set up meetups yourselves, use the megaphones that Daily Kos provides. One of the best ones is a regional group for your area. They're a built-in audience for the message you're trying to get out.
But don't just stop there - broadcast the message widely was well. It was NormAl1792 who suggested that I let Bill in Portland Maine know about the meetup. Bill took the information that I provided and fleshed it out a bit, going so far as to look up and include a link to The Columns Hotel when he mentioned the meetup in Cheers and Jeers. At least one person who showed up said that they first heard about it because of Cheers and Jeers. And I have to say that while I struggled to stitch together a short diary announcing the meetup Bill would dash off an announcement with flair and make it look easy while he did it.
I think it was from Cheers and Jeers that Navajo learned about the meetup and she started to mention them in her daily roundup of Kossack events. If you're planning a get together then you should definitely let her know. She was also kind enough to make several suggestions for building interest in the meetup, including publishing the RSVP list so that others would know who was attending.
I mention all of this for two reasons. The first is to acknowledge that this meetup would not have occurred without the contributions of many people and to thank them for their help. The second is that I hope that these lessons I learned along the way will be useful to Kossacks thinking about organizing their own meetups. I encourage you to do so and I can tell you that the experience will be well worth it.