Rolling Pone: Introducing the New San Joaquin Valley Bronies by

There's the South San Joaquin
Where the seeds of the dust bowl are found.
And theres a place called Mt. Whitney
From where the mighty Kern River comes down. - "Kern River" by Emmylou Harris

Rolling Pone: Introducing the New San Joaquin Valley Bronies
Introduction to Merced... Some Pointers on Rural Meetup Groups...

By Foal Duke, International Affairs Correspondent, 5th May 2018


Hi readers! So, at BABSCon this year, whilst covering the floor I came across a brand new group of horsepeople from San Joaquin Valley and managed to have a little chat with them and learn what they're all about. As is my style, I managed to get some practical pointers in starting up a new group, so if you're a student in Merced or a rural resident in the San Joaquin Area, or looking to start a group in a rural area, take a look at the interview below, and click after the jump for a transcript.






Foal Duke:
Okay, so do you guys want to tell me a little more about yourselves?

Andrew:
Okay. We are the San Joaquin Valley Bronies, of California, and basically, we represent all the cities in the valley of California, just a little outside of San Francisco where we are now. And we are currently hosting out meetup group at 7 pm at the Hyatt Regency at BABS Con.

FD:
Awesome. OK, so how did you guys get started? How did you meet up at first?

Andrew:
Well, mostly, we're connected by UC Merced which is the University of Merced in California. And we met Ryan, our friend, and a few other people in the Merced area, and we all sort of just culminated in Merced because it's close to all the other cities.

FD:
Of course. So what made you decide to do a meetup group for the middle California area? Considering that San Francisco is nearby?

Andrew:
There wasn't one! Pretty much. We just wanted to make sure that people who were bronies who were kinda disconnected previously, who either didn't really fit in the Bronies of Northern California or Southern California groups [geographically], had a group of their own and didn't have to travel too far. We started off with the My Little Pony Movie at Merced, and got a good showing at that.  And yeah, since then, we've just been growing.

FD:
Awesome, so how many people turn up?

Andrew:
Well,  it depends. If it's at the University, it's mostly students, so... ten, (Sam: fifteen?) around there. We're hoping to do it more in the town, so it's more accessible to people, because parking at the University is a bit of a challenge.

FD:
So, San Joaquin, how big is the area?

Andrew:
Uh, well, it's the entire valley of central California...

FD:
So it's quite a lot?

Andrew:
Yeah, it's mostly rural, but there's a lot of small towns out there that aren't so well known. But really, I think it's only about three hours from the Bay Area, so not very far!

FD:
OK, so would that ever be an issue for you guys - for your further members? Commuting in?

Andrew:
If they're commuting up to a large con like this, you'd have to probably carpool, like we did. Otherwise, the whole reason we started this was so that the people living out in that more rural area could come together rather than having to commute all the way to Sacramento or San Francisco. So it actually makes it easier for people.

FD:
Where's the furthest that your members come from?

Andrew (to treasurer): Um, I think... LA!

FD: LA!?

Andrew:
Yeah, but some people come because they have friends or they just want to check out the group and the things we're doing. But most people, they either live or rent in Merced, or they come from neighboring cities.

FD:
So, Merced... do you want to tell us a little more about the town?

Andrew:
Well, um, it's a poor town, but the University was placed there to kind of bring it up in social status. And now it's starting to turn into your typical University town.

Sam:
It's basically a rural farming community.

Andrew:
It's more rural than  people are used to in the Bay Area over here. So you're pretty much right on the farmlands. There's a lot of really great people, and the town is coming up in value.  It's pretty exciting!

FD:
So how often do you guys meet?

Andrew:
Now we're at a club and we meet every two weeks.

FD:
Considering that it's quite rural and the transport links are a little bit stretched...

Andrew:
It depends. In the every-two-weeks group, mostly people from Merced attend that at the University.  It's not very far. But we do bigger ones. We did a group viewing of all of Season 7 recently, so we had people from Sacramento and other places came out. But every two weeks, it's mostly the nearby guys.

FD:
OK, so, do you want to tell us a little more about yourselves and your roles in the group?

Andrew:
We actually do have dedicated club roles... I'm technically the  President.  [To Sam in white] This is my Vice President.

SAM: Hi!

Andrew:
[The guy in green] is our treasurer. And he is a transfer student from Russia. And he's been here for three years now.

Treasurer:
Yeah. This is my third year in the United States, and it's a nice place. I like it.

Andrew:
...And studying Computer Science!

Sam:
I'm studying Chemistry.

Foal Duke:
So how many people do you expect at the larger meets, and how often are the larger meets?

Andrew:
We usually have the larger ones about once a month. We took a little break in the winter, because everyone was off. And then, we'd usually have one this Saturday, but because of the con we took that one off too. But, yeah, once every month we have them meetups.

FD:
So, do you have any advice for people looking to run a meetup group in your particular situation?

Andrew:
If there' not one near you, just start it up yourself.  Bring at the University helped us with having a good location.  But, any public spot, you can host a meetup at.

FD:
But is there anything to watch out for? I mean, specifically in your situation, where it's a bit more rural?

Andrew:
 You have to plan these early! And, at least with us with the parking, it's not so great at the school. Make sure your attendees know where to park, especially if it's paid parking; you don't want them getting priced out.

Sam:
Yes, and meetup.com is the site we use to organise it, it's great for exposure.

FD:
And what would you say is the most challenging aspect you've found about starting a group?

Andrew:
Money's a bit of an issue. You have to finance your own thing (the Treasurer waves). Especially when you have a lot of people and you're financing food and things like that. You can try and get that on expenses. Like, we can do it through the University, but if you don't have a net like that, you want to make sure beforehand you have sufficient money.  But yeah, it's really fun, and I recommend you do it yourself.

FD:
Do you guys have any social media?

Andrew:
We just have a Facebook group. I would look up UC Merced Bronies. It'll probably show up on Google. So check us out! We're just starting out, so our search engine optimization's a bit incomplete.


Author's Thoughts

So there you have it! There are plenty of places in most towns to start a meetup group, and in general, commuting isn't much of an issue, even in rural areas with a long train or bus ride. After all, fans are fans, they'll sit on a train for ages to get there**. Just make sure the venue is something that can be accessible to all, friendly towards people in strange costumes with giant soft toys, quiet enough and well-lit enough to try out card and board games if that's your thing, and has the right amount of space for it (if the place usually has a couple of large tables free here or there it's a good sign).

Bonus points if you have some nearby things to try. Merced has a zoo, and also has a fruit barn, a slightly unusual combination of fruit bar and animal sanctuary. There's plenty in the nearby towns too if you want to organise a day trip. After all, you're here to make friends, so you definitely shouldn't restrict yourself to things that are fandom-related.

If you're planning, make sure you've contacted the venue to check prices for table reservations, group deals on meals, parking, etc. and budgeted accordingly, and for any extras they might have like private upstairs rooms. If you're attending, make sure to check entrance and parking costs, bus and train fares, and so on, especially in the valley; also refuel if you're going to drive and bring water, so you won't get stranded, because it is rural California after all.

Anyway folks, that's all for now. If you're in the area, check them out. If you have a story for me, or want me to interview you, or a fan group, you can always contact me at @RealFDuke.

--Foal Duke, International Affairs Correspondent
--BABSCon, Hyatt Regency, San Francisco, gorging on fruit while performing this shoot.

*Ryan didn't really want to appear.
**Even sitting on a rail replacement bus like this every week for the next three years.***

Comments (15)

  1. That was a cool interview. Good advice and honestly it's refreshing to see a good wholesome post like this on HN once in a while.

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