HalloweeM: Chicago Area Mensa’s Regional Gathering
HalloweeM began in 1975. Members of Chicago Area Mensa enjoyed attending other local groups’ Regional Gatherings (RGs) and meeting members from other chapters. The late Helen Kupper and about 10 other members got together to discuss the type of RG Chicago Area Mensa should have: unusual, fun, well-timed, and attractive to members from other chapters. After much discussion, it was decided to have it in the fall. Someone came up with an idea of a Halloween celebration. However, to customize it they named the RG HalloweeM (“M” for Mensa, of course). Helen chaired the first four.
Over 30 years later, HalloweeM is the largest Regional Gathering in American Mensa - only the Annual Gathering attracts a larger crowd. Approximately 500 to 600 members and guests attend this meeting of the minds every year.
Lectures range across the arts, science, history, and lifestyle topics. Programs in years past included crime investigation, South American food, creative thinking, wine tasting, NASA and the Mars project, game theory, eating and working in Soviet Russia, squirrels, Britain’s kings and queens, Scotch tasting, movie flubs, self-defense for women, kayaking, Star Wars, owls, cookie contest, Israeli folk dancing, Irish dancers, rock music, finance, funerals, jewelry making, nano technology, trivia contest, quinoa, whiskey tasting, urban paleontology, firehouses, and more.
Hospitality suites are open around the clock and feature outstanding and plentiful food and beverages (alcoholic and non-alcoholic). In recent years, Saturday night’s “pretentious drinking” has been a favored feature. We also have at least one dance during the weekend as well as a book sale, vendor area, movies, games, contests, tournaments, an awards ceremony, a massive pun-filled costume contest, and of course, dazzlingly intelligent conversations.
Chicago Area Mensa strives to have something for everyone, and in that spirit, a Youth Track has been added to the schedule in recent years. Kids between the ages of 8 and 14 can enjoy puzzles, games, and demonstrations in a room set aside just for them. This is not a babysitting service, but it sure helps enrich and entertain the minds of our youngest members and guests.
There is a kids-only costume party before the adult party. You can still bring your kids to the grown-up party, but for those of you who have younger children who might be overwhelmed by hundreds of strangers, who have children with early bed-times, or who simply want to avoid having to explain some of the puns, this will give kids a chance to dress up and compete for prizes at their own party. Then get yourself into costume and come to the main event.
The Friday night costume party is one of the things that set Chicago Area Mensa’s RG apart from all the others. Mensan grown-ups take dressing up to a new level. Costumes range from fanciful to funny to elaborate and elegant, but the thing for which Mensans are best known are the pun and word-play costumes. In all of them, Mensa-style creativity is obvious. Bring your costume, sense of humor, and your wits, because our puns will keep you guessing and giggling all night long. View our pictures to see costumes from ’WeeMs past.
Starting in 2012, we replaced our previous Friday-only “FriPlay” field trips with Excursions: this year the “Geek Tour” Tour at North Shore Distillery and Art Glass Blowing, both of which will take place on Thursday because people don’t want to miss out on the fun that is going on at the hotel Friday through Sunday. These additional-fee, sometimes free, events offer special experiences unique to HalloweeM. Past excursions included trips to local museums, walking tours, wine and olive oil tasting, laboratories, candy factories, vanilla plants or hands-on classes like gun shooting, Indian/Chinese cooking, and glass blowing. All excursions are optional and super-fun, but do require you to preregister for WeeM!
A word of caution: Once you attend, not only will you have a blast, you’ll be hooked on HalloweeM forever. And if you’d like to help make this ’WeeM an even bigger success, please plan to volunteer for a few hours and contact us this fall!
Typical HalloweeM Schedule
Please refer to Upcoming HalloweeM page for more information. The October issue of ChiMe will also have the details. And the “Mommy” letter is emailed to all the registered attendees who provided a valid address prior to WeeM.
Following our very successful experiment of 2008, we now start HalloweeM on Thursday afternoon. As it and Friday’s events have gotten larger, we now consider the event to be a 4-day event. We serve dinner on Thursday night, usually after 7 p.m., and there are also ample activities, seminars, food, and beverages. Excursions are scheduled for Thursday afternoon for people who get into town early or have free afternoon, although one must preregister for WeeM in order to participate. Registration usually starts around 4 p.m.
A simple breakfast is offered after 7:30 a.m. and lunch begins around 11:45 a.m. Programming starts as early at 9 a.m. and goes throughout the day and includes seminars, tournaments, and other fun events. Registration begins around 2 p.m. for those who haven’t already picked up their badge on Thursday. Dinner is served in hospitality after 5:30 p.m. so people can eat before getting themselves and/or their children ready for the costume parade. After dinner Mensans change into costumes. The costume parade for the children commences at 6:30 p.m. and they will be escorted back to the kids room afterwards if you have enrolled them. Then the adults costume parade follows around 7:30 p.m. Programming begins again after the costume contest. Some years we offer Friday evening entertainment, and some years we offer a DJ or live band for dancing. Either way, we’ll keep you partying as late as you can stay up!
Registration starts around 8 a.m. Again, festivities begin around 9 a.m., with breakfast beforehand which includes some hot items. As on Friday, there are game tournaments, seminars and other fun things scheduled throughout the day. A full lunch and late night snack is served. As is RG tradition, Saturday night dinner is “on your own” so you can dine with Mensan friends you haven’t seen in a while! There are several restaurants within walking distance of the hotel and others a short drive away. Some are listed on on the Hospitality page.
In the late evening, Pretentious Drinking (id required) will be held followed by a dance with either a live band or a DJ. For those who are too young or just don’t want to drink, there’s Prohibition Drinking and also an Epicurean Experience in hospitality. The Photo Booth debuted in 2014 and includes lots of props so you take home some fun photos. For non-dancers, there are other interesting things to do such as games, movies and additional programs. At HalloweeM, the smart fun runs non-stop all weekend!
Is this a long weekend or what?