Poly Big Fun 2017

Poly Big Fun continues to be one of the most rewarding experiences I have all year. It’s a 50-100 person relationship conference held in Bastrop State Park, and is still probably the best value in the country. For $60-80, you get three full days and night in a group cabin or tent site, three meals a day in a fully equipped indoor dining hall, including vegan and gluten-free options, and some of the most relevant, vulnerable, and valuable insight into how to make open relationships work you’ll find anywhere. It’s 100% volunteer run, and everyone signs up for three volunteer shifts to help make the event go. This year I used Junior, my huge van, to transport out most of the infrastructure.

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In previous years I’ve usually given a workshop, most recently on adult attachment styles. This year I was too deep in internal conflict over aspects of my love life to feel I could provide balanced information, so I decided to ruin other people’s presentations instead. 🙂 It also seems like most people I’ve talked to have at least looked into attachment styles, so we’ve been successful in getting the word out.

When we arrived, the fridge usually reserved for people to bring their own stuff was…gone. So we had 60 people en route expecting to be able to refrigerate their Own Special Food, and no where to put it. The community snapped into action, and we had a Craigslist fridge on site in less than two hours! The freezer door wouldn’t close, and I made my contribution by trying to beat the hinges back into position with rocks and bricks, which actually shattered, for about two hours until I thought “polyamory is about communication!” and asked someone if they had a ratchet set. Fifteen minutes later I was able to shim the door with a bottle cap and we had closure.

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The whole Fridge Incident really illustrates why the event and community work. Once the problem was identified, a timely, chaotic, and wildly successful series of events occurred that lead to a functional fridge ready for the main rush starting on Friday morning. At least ten people that I’m aware of participated, and there were probably more. Thanks to everyone who helped get it done!

It was a little weird not to have the pressure of presenting, which I’ve done for years, over my head. However, it gave me time me to step in an help grease the wheels. Our kitchen leader was sick and not only had to do the three days worth of shopping for the event in one day, but then had to leave the event almost immediately. This left the kitchen staff with only a set of directions and the institutional knowledge of those of us who’ve been around a while to fall back on. I was *amazed* at how smoothly meal prep for 60 people went. I wasn’t a big part of that effort, but when people couldn’t find things, I could usually tell them where they were. When we ran out of dish soap, I was able to communicate that to someone going into town to shop. I had more time to reach out to new people and try to make them feel welcome and included. A hundred little things like this add up to a much smoother event, and it felt good to know I was still helping even though I had no formal on-site role this year.

My partner presented two workshops, a new one on Maintaining a Support Network for people with special needs, and one she’d previously done on The Art of the Compliment. Both went really well, and I was proud of her for pulling it off! She did a great job on a very busy schedule.

I also got a lot out of a workshop on balancing M/s and poly relationships. It clarified a lot of conflicts I’d perceived between the general egalitarian nature of poly and and the chosen power exchange of kink. It didn’t solve every issue, but I came out with a much stronger belief that it’s possible to pull off that tricky balancing act.

There was also a Unpacking Couple’s Privilege “here’s our story of how we made every mistake highlighted in More Than Two” workshop done by a triad/V that was hilarious and informative. While I still consider it the best poly book around, I have my own set of Serious Issues with its view of what’s basically become poly orthodoxy. I was able to voice a few concerns, but the same lack of clarity in my own feelings and headspace around the issue prevented me from being more vocal.

Bastrop State Park has been threatening to remodel the group barracks we use to make this event so wonderful and cheap. The ticket price of holding it anywhere else would be at least three times as high, so we hope that they find some reason to defer the remodel, which they’ve already done at least three years in a row. Alternatives would either be *much* more expensive or basically be camping, ala Flipside, which would radically change the accessibility of the event.

In addition to the discussion of site relocation, there was also a discussion of how to make the event more inclusive for people of color and the trans community. While those groups have always been a part of the event, they’ve been under represented. Anyone with ideas along those lines can contact the event organizers here..

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It was an amazing time to re-connect with my extended poly network, especially out-of-towners from San Antonio, Houston, and D/FW. There was also a good balance of new and experienced poly people who hadn’t been to the event before. We nearly always have at least one person in tears from the feeling that they’ve finally found community and acceptance, which is what it’s all about. I wish I was able to include more pictures of actual people here, but we still live in a society where people can have their children taken away for participating in consensual non-monogamy. Perhaps next year I’ll bring some garden gnomes to simulate attendance.

Thanks to everyone who worked hard to make the event a reality! You made it look easy, and it isn’t. While there are certainly people who do the heavy lifting, the community really does a great job of filling the in gaps and thereby owning the event, and it really shows.

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