I Went to the 'Gilmore Girls' Fan Festival — And Geeked Out Over Stars Hollow IRL

"It was pretty much heaven for every Lorelei and Rory."

Okay, okay, I can’t lie: I didn’t watch Gilmore Girls growing up. Even though my late-80s birthdate would make it feasible (and um, likely) that I’d be addicted to GG, it wasn't actually until three years ago when I was laid up with a nasty cold in my New York apartment as an adult, I started the first episode…

...and didn’t stop for six weeks when I finished all seven seasons.

While I’m sure my Facebook friends raised an eyebrow to my live updating throughout the season, as my allegiance to Rory’s boyfriends wavered and I quickly fell in love with Luke, I’ve been a bonafide star-struck Gilmore groupie ever since. (I even binge watched Parenthood to get more screen time with the talented Lauren Graham.)

So when the opportunity came for me to attend the Gilmore Girls Fan Festival in the town that inspired Amy Sherman-Palladino? You better believe I jumped at the chance as fast as I can say “In Omnia Paratus.” While not affiliated with Netflix or The WB, the event was put together by GG’s major fan base and included an all-access look behind the scenes of all the people who made this iconic series the success was (and continues to be). From panels with the actors and writers to workshops, episode screenings, and of course, some Founders Day Punch, it was pretty much heaven for every Lorelei and Rory.

To help you channel your excitement for Netflix’s four-part revival of the show on November 25, allow me to share what the experience was like.

Stars Hollow in Real Life

When the day arrived, I (ironically) grabbed my umbrella, rented my first-ever Zipcar and drove the almost two hours out of Manhattan to Washington, Connecticut to visit a Stars Hollow IRL. After leaf-peeping like the best of ‘em, my equally-Gilmore-obsessed friend and I parked near a small garage that seriously looked like Gypsy could come out at any second, we made our way to the highly recommended Washington Supply Company where free coffee was being served (because duh, coffee). As you walk through the town, it’s easy to see how Sherman-Palladino started to imagine a sweet town where everyone knew everyone. With small streets, one traffic light, a town center and a few shops scattered along the way, Washington has the charm — and simplicity — that made Stars Hollow feel like home for all of us.

No trip would be complete though, without checking by the local diner — especially if you’re a single gal like me and still fantasizing about meeting my very own Luke. In Washington, the equivalent to Luke’s is Marty’s, and has a very different feel from flannel and a distaste of technology. I met Marty himself — a friendly, middle-aged dude who keeps a classier establishment: Locals were busy typing on their laptops, almond milk was readily available, and champagne was even listed on the menu. The days of no longer allowing cell phones? Those are gone from Marty’s, just like they became irrelevant at Luke’s as the show ran its course.

A hop and a skip down the block and you found the local bookstore, welcoming us tourists in with a sentiment to our fave girl, Rory, above the door. Inside, you can definitely imagine Rory in her Chilton uniform after school, studying and waiting for Lorelei to meet her for a cup of Joe. There’s a real Chilton in Washington called Rumsey Hall School, and we happened to meet a former student at a local restaurant — G&W (after George Washington, hence the town name) — who selected the boarding school because of her love for Gilmore Girls.

There are other touches of Gilmore throughout this gorgeous New England town, and while some argue that Sherman-Palladino mistaken the town that sparked her quick-wit show, I can see the magic of Washington. Maybe I could blame it on my NYC address, but overlooking the fall-colored mountains with a bright blue sky while eating the festival’s version of Friday Night Dinner (food trucks, obviously), it didn’t seem far fetched to imagine one of TV’s most beloved mother-daughter duos coming up to ask me about my day.

Geeking Out

Locals were quick to talk about Gilmore Girls — maybe due to the festival, but probably because most said they're used to fans driving through to get a glimpse of their hometown. Many of the stores carried items inspired by the show like dragonfly earrings, keychains, and coffee cups, along with coffee mugs and dishtowels baring Stars Hollow’s name. But my favorite store was Le Petite Stationer who truly got the Gilmore Girl inside each of us. From soup speciality-scented based on the essence of the characters to homegoods with some of the most memorable quotes (think: “Oy, with the poodles already!”) — my friend and I were checking off all of our friends’ holiday gifts with ease. 

Another fun part of the festival though? Seeing all of the fans who made their way far-and-wide to be part of the weekend. We met people who flew from Brazil and Germany, while others crossed the country from Los Angeles or came up from Kentucky. There were "You’re the Rory to My Lorelei” and “You’re the Lorelei to my Rory” matching mom/daughter t-shirts, Luke’s coffee mugs, Doose's Market shopping totes and so much more. Kindred Handcrafts was also onsite, a shop that only (yep, only!) sells screenprinted Gilmore Girls T-shirts and sweatshirts. (And yes, of course, we both brought one home!)

Takeaways

As my friend and I packed up our souvenirs and braced ourselves for the real world back in NYC, we talked about the lessons we took from Gilmore Girls. While she grew up watching it with her mom and sister and my experience was a more solo affair, we both loved the attention to character detail, the impressive dialogue and the feel-good lessons taught throughout the show. Much like the cast always say they felt like on set, watching Gilmore Girls makes you feel like you’re part of the family and part of the small town crowd where kindness runs rampant and saying what you think is welcomed. From Rory’s fall from grace when she took off a semester from college to the never-ending on-and-off relationship that’s part of every series, you love the characters for their realness and relatability.

As we watched the red carpet on Friday night, Ed Herrmann's wife and daughter made their way to a panel discussion and stopped to say a few loving words about Ed, who passed away last year before the revival had started. She said he loved being on the show, his co-actors and often wished it would have a second-go. She joked that Emily and Lorelai were his second family and talked about the odd parallels in their lives (their son’s name is Rory, for one). And lastly, she said how she bet Ed was floating above all of us, so excited to see the gang all back together, with their fans making every effort to be part of the experience.

I bet he is, too. And probably, with a newspaper in his hand.

Even if the show was all about talking fast and a quick-moving plot… I think what Washington, Connecticut and Stars Hollow can teach us all is to do like Ed. Float a little more. Take a look at what life has to offer. Value our family and friendships who make our lives rich. Tell those who you love when you feel it, not years later.

And when in doubt? Always have another coffee. Always.

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