Wish You Were Here!
By Tim Peterson
| August 31, 2008

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to live down the hall from Connie Kendall? To be on a first-name basis with Jimmy Barclay? To see Wooton do his signature snort in person? This dream came true for a group of AIO fans in August 2008, at the live recording of an Odyssey show at the AIO 20th Birthday Bash.

Two dozen hard-core fans from The Town of Odyssey, the Internet's largest AIO fan-based message board, converged on the campus of Focus on the Family in Colorado Springs, CO for this special event. These weren't just any fans -- no, they were the fans so dedicated that not only had they spent hours a day posting messages on the Town of Odyssey (ToO), but they convinced their friends, families, and bank accounts to let them travel thousands of miles to meet people they only knew on the Internet. With a few exceptions, these people had never met face-to-face before, but overcame the obstacles to come together for this once-in-a-lifetime experience.

I was proud to count myself as one of them. I have been listening to Odyssey with my family for as long as I can remember, tuning in on the radio at 9:30 every Saturday morning. Even in college, I still listen to the daily airings every evening when possible. It was in 2001, after the airing of Strange Boy in a Strange Land, that I joined the online fan community. At the time, the biggest fan message board was the now-defunct Town Hall (the old version, for those of you who remember). Over time it evolved in various ways and was eventually superceded by a new upstart, the Town of Odyssey. While I've always lurked on these boards and posted occasionally, I've felt more at home in the AIO chat room linked to the Town of Odyssey, founded in 2003.

On February 10th, 2008, the news broke on the ToO that AIO was going to record a show live in front of an audience for the show's 20th birthday, on Saturday, August 16th. The universal reaction was that everyone would like to go, but most wouldn't be able to, whether due to time constraints, lack of funds, or living on a different continent. However, there were those who were able to work everything out so that they could come, either alone or with families. By April there were a dozen people who had posted their intent to come, and around June I finally gave in to my desire to go and made plane and hotel reservations.

In July the plans really started to come together. A private sub-forum was created on the ToO for the attendees to plan what they wanted to do together. Various activities such as bowling, mini-golf, or hiking were suggested to give us a chance to hang out together, but the most popular idea was to get all of the ToOers together on Friday night for a pizza party. I pitched in by creating a spreadsheet using Google Documents that we could all edit online to allow us to share information such as when we were arriving in Colorado Springs and where we were staying. This soon grew into a planning chart for the party, where everyone could mark who was coming, what kind of pizza they liked, and what games they were bringing.

By the week before, everything was set. Nathan Hoobler, Odyssey writer and occasional ToO poster, graciously offered us the use of the Ogden Lounge at Focus for our party, saving us from paying for a hotel conference room. The pizza order was all planned out, and one member offered to create nametags for everyone and plan an AIO acting contest for our enjoyment.

Further Reading: Reading in order is recommended.

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