Not many people can say their first camping trip started on a Los Angeles sidewalk and ended on a red carpet. Then again, this wasn't your typical marshmallow roasting camping experience. I was sleeping outside for The Hunger Games. I know! It sounds crazy, and it kind of is. But we do crazy things for love, and sometimes we're lucky enough to do those things in good company. And I was in some great company.
This camping trip began like any solid camping trip should (or so television tells me): before sunrise. Like, way before. On Sunday, my friends and I joined a short, "unofficial" line at 2:30 a.m. We were across the street from Nokia Plaza, right alongside a parking lot -- not the best view in LA, but at those early morning hours not much mattered except Starbucks being closed. Soon enough, more fans tacked themselves onto the line until it stretched down the block.
Around 6 a.m., it was finally time to get "Official," with a capital "O." Security came to collect us so that we could receive our wristbands and set up camp at Nokia Plaza for the next 24 hours. We made our way across the street to the Nokia in what might have been the calmest, most orderly line in the history of fandom -- no cutting, no rushing, not even any running. Sure, maybe we were all too tired to bother, but as someone who's done her fair share of lining up, this only reinforced my feelings about the fandom.
Hunger Games fans are special. Not that other fandoms aren't, of course -- I can personally vouch for that. But as an admin on The Hob, I've been fortunate enough to interact with Hunger Games fans around the world, and I've seen nothing but the best from them. Camping out on Sunday just allowed me to see that in person.
Aside from all the fun stuff planned for us -- many of the cast members stopped by, including biggies like Jennifer Lawrence and Josh Hutcherson -- part of the real excitement was being amongst people as devoted as we are. There were girls dressed as Katniss, Hunger Games t-shirts everywhere and tents decorated with blankets and signs. But more than that, there was a feeling of unity, a sense that our shared and genuine enthusiasm for this incredible story brought us all to a concrete plaza in LA, and we were in this together.
One fan I met, a woman named Mandy in her 30s from Vancouver, said part of the reason she wanted to camp out was to hang out with other fans. "Through Facebook and Twitter, I've met a lot of really cool people in The Hunger Games fandom and I wanted to meet them here and just be a part of this," Mandy said. "I think it's something special -- it's the first movie of the series -- it's going to only get bigger and bigger."
I also found a whole family of campers -- Yvette (mom), Jacob (son) and Anmarie (daughter), along with Anmarie's friend Brandi -- who'd driven to LA to camp out at the mom's suggestion! It's amazing when a book series can bring a whole family together for an experience like this.
Eventually night fell on Sunday -- along with the temperature (FYI: LA is winter coat cold in March, which is just unfair.) -- and since we were expecting an early wake up call, all was pretty silent by midnight. It was not easy sleeping in a tent on the chilly ground with all the screens and speakers in the Nokia Plaza going off -- especially when your hotel is just across the street -- but we managed a few hours. The next morning we received our tickets for the red carpet, broke camp and were told to return in the afternoon.
When I asked 19-year-old California girls Natalie and Renata if camping out on the LA concrete was how they'd envisioned their spring break, Natalie said, "We slept on concrete, our backs kind of hurt, but it was all worth it."
And worth it, it was. The red carpet premiere was as glamorous, hectic and exciting as I hoped -- but the real thrill was finally being able to watch the film. There are just no words for that. In the end, I'm so glad I camped out for The Hunger Games. I know it's an experience I'll never forget. Not even on a few hours sleep.
- Written by Michelle Andreani