The Gathering at The Grove aka The Grove Gathering was a weekend get-together from July 7 - 9, 2017 in Texas. It was held for Pagans including Wiccans, and for SubGenii, Discordians and Nudists. About 60 people attended the event, which may become annual. (The event should not be confused with The Grove Gathering of The Grove Center for the Arts & Media, the Gathering in the Grove by the Young Single Adult Conference, The Grove Gatherings of Passion City Church, or The Grove Teen Gathering.) Some Spanish-speaking attendees called it La Reunión en la Arboleda. Because of the free level of consensual personal intimacy at the event, some attendees jokingly called it "The Grope Gathering."
The event was inspired by three things: The Church of the SubGenius X-Day in Ohio; a pagan esbat in Texas for the full moon and the 50th anniversary of the Summer of Love; and a Texas reunion of members , friends and families of the Early Church of the SubGenius (1953 - 1975), all scheduled for early summer of 2017.
The first inspiration was X-Day. The X-Day Drill is an annual event held by the Church of the SubGenius. It is intended to welcome the Pleasure Saucers who would take members off of planet Earth before either the destruction of Earth, or the enslavement of the people left behind. The 2017 event was held from June 29 to July 5. Like the events that came before, it was retroactively named a "drill" when the Pleasure Saucers failed to arrive.
The second inspiration was a pagan esbat. A couple of pagan covens had planned to have a combined esbat, a ceremony for the full moon, on Saturday, July 8, in The Grove. The Grove, located on private land, includes a large cleared area in the midst of trees. This gave participants privacy from public view. The two covens often met there together, usually with guests, on major pagan holidays or sabbats, and sometimes during the summer. Most attended while either topless or "topfree," or in the nude. Because 2017 was the 50th anniversary of the Summer of Love, they had discussed making it a bigger than usual event.
The third inspiration was an alleged SubGenius reunion. The Early Church of the SubGenius Reunion was announced by Bonnie Dobbs and JoX the Bobtist (and allegedly by Connie Dobbs, first wife of Church founder J.R. "Bob" Dobbs) in association with the Early Church website. It was said to be held at the Austin Hilton in Texas from Friday through Tuesday, June 30 to July 4, 2017. The Church of the SubGenius X-Day in Ohio was scheduled for about the same days, only longer. The Early Church reunion committee reportedly received a number of requests from people wanting to attend, several of whom lived closer to Texas than to Ohio. However, many of them did not qualify as Early Church members.
Several SubGenii were upset about the "competing" event, while others dismissed it as a practical joke or Discordianesque jake. Reverand Peas claimed in a video posted online that there was no such thing as the Early Church, that a SubGenius event would not be held indoors, and the reunion was not a real event. The video, which also disputed Rev. Ivan Stang's claim that the Barbie doll was based on "Bob" and "Connie's" daughter Barbara Dobbs, became an ironic inspiration for The Gathering.
Some members of the pagan covens were also Discordians or members of the Church of the SubGenius. A few of them planned to attend both X-Day and the esbat. They suggested expanding the esbat to cover the weekend of July 7 - 9, and to make it a combined event including some SubGenii who planned to visit relatives and friends in Texas after X-Day, some Discordians who planned to attend the esbat while on vacation, the two pagan covens, and guests. The suggestion was accepted.
The Gathering at the Grove was relatively informal, featuring only a few pre-scheduled activities. It included an esbat full moon ceremony, music and dancing, a paganism workshop, contests, and various games including the Cloved Lemon Kissing Game. The Gathering was open to all ages, and several families attended. While some participants wore masks and/or clothing, a majority of participants were naked for at least part of the event.
While items including sunscreen, water, body paint, and artwork were sold, no necessary item could be sold at a profit. Many essential items were given for free.
Because some of the participants wanted their privacy kept, especially because many attended while topless or nude and unmasked, photography and even audio recording were greatly restricted. A crew making a documentary asked to attend and record The Grove Gathering, but were turned down for privacy reasons. Some participants agreed to be interviewed after the event.
Friday afternoon was largely setting up, with the main set-up being a large canvas and metal pavillion. In the evening, the group held a combined celebration and bardic circle, a concept borrowed from the Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA). Participants sang, played instruments including guitar, flute, and drum, recited poetry, and danced around a campfire. Most who attended on Friday evening spent the night on site.
Saturday featured several games and activities, many of them unscheduled. Two sets of pagan high priests and high priestesses led scheduled workshops on paganism. Other activities included a dance worshop, book and art projects, a sing-a-long, nude body painting, and various games. In the event, the main esbat ceremony led by a high priest and high priestess was held around a bonfire. The trees surrounding the clearing prevented the participants or the fire being seen from any public roadway.
Sunday's activities were similar to Saturday's, except that instead of an esbat ceremony and bonfire, the event closed with a partially tongue-in-cheek awards ceremony. Gypsie Skripto won for best wearable art made of natural material found on site for the Cloved Lemon Kissing Queen crown. Gypsie gave awards to Lady Leaf and Crambling for body finger painting. Best poem written on site was won by Owlian, funniest Barbie and Ken doll poses went to Clara Kindle and Emerald Fox, and weirdest dancing went to the Disco-Rdian Dancing Trip.
Two portable toilets on site, labeled "HERS AND HIS" and "TURDIS" (a take-off on the similar-looking Doctor Who's blue TARDIS and the word "turd"), shared an award as Best Dump. Princess Unicornia was named the Queen of the Cloved Lemon Kissing Game, or less formally Cloved Lemon Kissing Queen. She was a long-standing member of the Order of the Cloved Lemon and co-author with Reverend Loveshade of an article on the CLKG published in a number of books. An honorary award for Best New Word was "Retrofactively" coined by Alden Loveshade. The word means "Applying to the rewriting of history, the changing of the facts after the fact."