The Pembroke Cosplay Tea Parties were created by cosplayers Lolita and SakiB, who wanted to host a themed cosplay social gathering outside of conventions. The tea parties feature elegant food, decorations, and of course costumes which correspond to each year's theme determined by the hosts.
In 2006, Lolita and SakiB played host to the first annual Cosplay Tea Party held at the scenic Herring Run Park. Although the event originally did not have a specific theme other than Elegant Gothic Lolita, some of the cosplayers planning to attend decided to do Lolita-inspired versions of popular characters from Alice In Wonderland. The idea caught on amongst those attending, and by the day of the event all 25 guests showed up in various Wonderland-esque outfits inspired by Lewis Carroll's classic tale of whimsy. In addition to enjoying tea and delicious treats, the party included games of cards and croquet, and photo shoot sessions with the event's official photographer, Bruce O'Bryan. Bruce also documented the event's activities on film. The party was such a rousing success, Lolita and SakiB hope to make it an annual event.
When I first heard about this event on the Cosplay.com forums I wasn't sure if I was interested in going, but when the attendees decided to do an Alice In Wonderland theme for costumes I knew I had to join in. Since I only found out about the event a few days ahead of time, I decided to modify my Midnight Rose costume into the Cheshire Cat rather than make something new. Besides, the gathering still needed a Cheshire Cat, and it's not Wonderland without the grinning feline! I decided to make ginger snaps, a great snack when paired with tea, to bring to the picnic and headed to the park. When I arrived at the event, Lolita, SakiB, and Sketch were still setting up, but soon most of the other guests had pulled into the park and there was plenty of people to chat with and food to go around. I was impressed with how many diverse Wonderland characters showed up for the event, including Lolita and Michela as the curious Alice, Courtney as the White Rabbit, Crazy Flower as Dinah, SakiB, Sketch, and RhiChan as unique versions of the Mad Hatter, Christa as the March Hare, ChibiRinoa and Henry as an adorable Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum, Kurthy as a gorgeous Caterpillar, GacktChowder as a creative Ten of Hearts, and Guardian Lulu and Girl_Shuichi as the formidable Red Queen.
I was a little nervous going to my first cosplay event outside of a convention as I would be wearing a costume in public for the first time. Also, other than Crazy Flower, I knew very few of the people attending. However, everyone was very friendly; Sketch recognized me from our cosplay chess encounter earlier this year, and it was a pleasant surprise to see each other again. The two of us had a blast talking and he wouldn't let me leave without giving him my AIM screen name, and I surprised myself by giving him my real one. I also had a blast chatting with Kurthy and Christa who I both recognized from Cosplay.com but had yet to meet in person. They were both super nice and I hope I get to hang out with them more in the future! Bruce O'Bryan also recognized me from photographing me at Anime Boston, and he took some wonderful photos of me as the Cheshire Cat and did a great job setting up group shots of us hiding behind trees while Alice wandered in the foreground. We also had a blast acting out scenes, such as having Alice chase the White Rabbit down a hold in the rocks nearby. When we were tired of taking photos, I also had fun playing croquet with ChibiRinoa and her boyfriend Henry, and playing card games with other party attendees.
The only drawback to the event was that it happened to be 90 degrees out and sunny which had many of us sweating in the heat, especially those wearing several layers like Sketch was in his Mad Hatter tuxedo. I tried to beat the heat a little bit by having Bruce take some of my photos in the Herring Run brook, balancing on the rocks by the waterfall as the cool spray misted my arms and face. Some of the other cosplayers took off their shoes and stockings and waded in the water to cool themselves off. However, the sunshine made for a beautiful atmosphere and we had fun despite the sweat. Perhaps if this event is held again in the future, it can be done earlier in the summer before the sweltering temperatures really settle in for the season. Overall, the party was a rousing success, and attendees hung out until evening, long after I decided to head home. I think the concept is fantastic and a great way to socialize with fellow cosplayers in a setting that's more relaxed than conventions. Hopefully, with all the positive feedback the event is getting from attendees, Lolita and SakiB will turn in into an annual gathering.