Because …. The Fest

By Margot Winick

If it’s mid-August, it must be Chicago! As they have done for at least 12 years consecutively, members of the BBC met up in Chicago for the 43rdannual Fest for Beatles Fans. The Fest, one of two annual city celebrations organized by Mark Lapidos Productions, celebrated 50 years of Abbey Road, and was held at the Hyatt Regency O’Hare.

Jennifer Sandi, last year’s BBC trivia contest winner, Tim Stout, Carol Ghesquiere, Kathleen Leaf, Judy Blackwell, Ed Hartnett, and yours truly were among the Midwest Beatles fans who came together to take a deeper dive on several topics surrounding their favorite rock band, The Beatles. We came together from Nashville, Indiana, Boston, Orlando, and beyond.

Many attendees shared the event with multiple generations, and it was a common site to families in Beatles cosplay. Tie-dye and beads, Lennon glasses, mop top wigs, mod 60s Beatles-print dresses, dotted the crowd. Beatles merchandise, art, music and memorabilia were all on display. Jennifer Sandi brought her mom, Rebecca, her sister for the first time since 2001, and her niece, whose third time it was.

Said Jennifer: “After all these years of coming here, I got to experience the weekend with the best Beatle Buddies I could have. Being together for various activities from the live Wings concert to sharing treasures we found in the flea market (and other Beatle-related goodies amongst ourselves) to seeing my friend Ed [Hartnett] win the charity raffle at his very first Fest was the best! I’m no longer a loner on a mission to see everything at a Fest, it’s so much better sharing that common bond with some fab folks!” Meeting up with Jen at the Fest was Nancy Riley, also attending for the first time.

Ed Hartnett, from Weymouth, Mass., attended for the first time, and brought his wife, Paula. “I love being around people who enjoy The Beatles, and it was a good time for us to go,“ he said. They extended their stay in Chicago for a few days to see the Windy City.

“This was my first Fest, and the best thing about it was I didn’t go alone,” said Ed. “I got a Little Help from My Friends I was able to sit and talk about The Beatles and they could understand my passion for them. And In the End The Love you Take is equal to Love you Make. Hugs and Handshakes to all my BBC Chatters I had a Blast . Beatle On!”

The team met up at several of the panel discussions, concerts, and on Saturday night, what has become a tradition of ordering Chicago-famous deep dish pizza from Giordano’s, delivered in the lobby.

And as usual, the BBC enjoyed lounging in Tim Stout’s room, where he brought blow up globes and pens for the BBC to decorate, then toss around the dance floor. Despite dislocating his shoulder in a bike accident recently, Tim was on the dance floor. He adorned his arm sling with a Beatles pin.

The whole weekend, the buzz was about the release of Abbey Road, which was announced days before the event.

Fab scholar Mark Lewisohn took us through day by day of creating Abbey Road, uncovering lots of interesting detailed tidbits in the lives of the Beatles. Author Ken Womack teased his forthcoming book on the making of Abbey Road, with a multimedia presentation. Jude Southerland Kessler presented on the day that John Lennon was honored at Foyle’s Literary Luncheon, where Brian Epstein had to step in and smooth out a John Lennon faux pas when he gave his miniscule “You’ve got a lucky face!” acceptance speech.

As always, concerts are often the most magical part of the Fests. That is when the Beatles inspiration flows, and everyone is there to immerse in Beatleness. Wings alumni Denny Laine, Laurence Juber and Steve Holley, played lots of hits together from “Back to the Egg” such as “Getting Closer,” “Spin it On” and “Rockestra Theme.” Often, other musicians, including Fest house band Liverpool, played with them.

“A highlight for me was buying Mark Lewisohn’s book and having my picture taken with him. My Beatle Buds were also a highlight,’ said Carol, who brought a poem to read in the Poetry Jam this year.

“We are all brought together in one place during the weekend of the Fest in love and in one mind because of The Beatles and our love of their music, “ said Judy.

The group started a group text chat and the memories keep flowing — and will continue on our next Sunday morning chat.
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