All geeks are welcome in this Charlotte club
Plus: Top news of the week — CATS CEO resigns — Panthers coach fired — CMS enrollment ticks up — Phillips Place movie theater closes Sunday
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Thousands of local geeks (don’t call them nerds) are part of the Charlotte Geeks club, where they share their love of board games, movies, comics and more
Members of the Charlotte Geeks club filled Mugs Coffee on Park Road earlier this month for board game night. No special knowledge of games was required — just a desire to perhaps learn a new game and have some fun.
by Lindsey Banks
The Charlotte Geeks club’s October board game night began one recent Friday evening with an explanation of the game Tsuro around a table at Mugs Coffee in Madison Park.
“It’s basically a high-stakes adult version of ‘the floor is lava,”’ said organizer Nick Crook as he described the tile placement game to seven of his fellow Charlotte geeks.
Three other games were simultaneously beginning at other tables around them, and just 30 minutes into the 3-hour-long drop-in event, more than 20 adults of all ages had arrived to play each other’s board games like Raiders of the North Sea, Century Golem and Gizmos.
Charlotte Geeks is a club that has been welcoming any and all people who identify as a geek since the group was founded in 2008 by Joey Starnes, or “the Giddy Geeker,” as she’s known. Starnes, 52, works as a recruiter for Wells Fargo.
And before we go any further, we’ll let Starnes answer the question of what exactly makes someone a geek — and no, geeks are not the same as nerds.
“A nerd focuses on the fact that you have a particular obsession or a skill,” Starnes explained. “Like, somebody can be really nerdy about science, and it tends to be more focused on STEM-related kinds of projects. Whereas a geek, in my opinion, is somebody who's just really passionate about stuff.”
For the Charlotte Geeks crowd, those passions dip into fandoms like Star Wars, Harry Potter and Game of Thrones that cross multiple mediums like books, movies and comics. Since its founding, Charlotte Geeks has grown to 3,722 Facebook group members and almost 5,000 members on Meetup, an event listing platform. It’s free to join the group, and Starnes said most members are in their 20s through their 50s.
She founded Charlotte Geeks for the same reason so many have joined — to make friends in a new city.
The origin story: Shortly after moving to Charlotte in 2008, Starnes attended Dragon Con, a multi-genre, pop culture convention in Atlanta. It was there, she said, that she realized that she was, in fact, a geek.
Eager to find a more local community, Starnes searched the online blogging platform LiveJournal and found a group of 25 people in the Charlotte area who had attended Dragon Con. They scheduled a meet-up at the old Caribou Coffee location on Park Road and began planning monthly meetings and events, which she would upload to Meetup.com.
Now, almost 15 years later, Charlotte Geeks has expanded to monthly board game nights, two monthly book clubs, an event called the Geek Gala that debuted in 2009, a bi-annual craft fair inspired by Harry Potter called the Muggle’s Market, and a podcast called Guardians of the Geekery. The group also attends local events together, like sci-fi and comic book conventions, the Renaissance fair and movie screenings.
Her team has also grown to include her husband Matt (his nickname is “the StarnesLord”) as the assistant organizer, podcaster, Carol “the Cat,” who works on the podcast, and Wanda, “Maven of the Muggles Market.”
Broad and inclusive: Starnes said Charlotte has other groups that focus on one specific fandom, so the essence of Charlotte Geeks lies in its broadness of geekery. She wanted an environment where people could learn from each other and expand their passions.
And another area in which geekery separates itself from nerdery, Starnes said, is through its inclusivity.
“I find that geekery tends to be more inclusive and tries to embrace diversity, as opposed to fan voiding or gatekeeping,” she said. “We don’t want to keep people out of it. We want to be the gateway drug that draws you into exploring new opportunities.”
That also means offering as many free or discounted opportunities for people to do geeky things around town as possible. Starnes said she works with venues like movie theaters or conventions to get discounted tickets for the group.
“When I moved up here, I worked two part-time jobs,” Starnes said. “I worked in radio, and then as an admin temp. So, I tried to make sure that if somebody showed up to one of our events with $10 or $20 in their pocket, they could participate and have a good time.”
The past few years have been a little quieter for the Charlotte Geeks for a few reasons. Starnes fought cancer in 2019 and also had a serious surgery, and just as she was on the mend the pandemic put a halt to everything. Starnes said her team stepped up during that time to keep hosting book club and game nights, either virtually or in-person with Covid safety measures.
The Charlotte Geeks are currently gearing up for a full, pandemic-free year. Starnes said the team is working on the 2023 schedule, including the Muggles Market on February 5 at Queens Sports Complex on Tyvola Road, and is excited for what’s to come.
“The thing I love most about Charlotte, as I always say to somebody, is ‘if you can't find something you like to do in Charlotte, you’re just not looking,’” she said.
Lindsey Banks is a staff reporter for The Ledger: firstname.lastname@example.org
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You might be interested in these Charlotte events
Events submitted by readers to The Ledger’s events board:
Oct. 27: ASCEND Gala, 6:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. at The Fillmore, Charlotte. Time Out Youth’s ASCEND Gala is the Charlotte region’s signature event celebrating LGBTQ youth. Come enjoy an unforgettable evening hosted by RuPaul's Drag Race winner Kylie Sonique Love. $150.
This week in Charlotte: CATS CEO resigns, Panthers coach fired, Phillips Place theater closing Sunday
On Saturdays, The Ledger sifts through the local news of the week and links to the top articles — even if they appeared somewhere else. We’ll help you get caught up. That’s what Saturdays are for.
CMS enrollment ticks up slightly: (WFAE) Enrollment at Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools is up by 800 students from last year’s numbers with 141,219 students enrolled, which is still a drop from the 147,000 who were enrolled during the district’s peak in 2017 and 2018.
Gun found on campus: (WCNC) A juvenile suspect was arrested Thursday after a gun was found on the campus of Julius Chambers High School in northeast Charlotte, making it the first gun reportedly found on a CMS campus.
Voter guide: (Observer) The Charlotte Observer published its 2022 voter guide with information about registering to vote, where to vote and a breakdown of races and candidates.
Pineville councilman accused: (WFAE) Pineville town councilman Les Gladden was censured by the town council this week after an independent investigation found that he had intimidated staff and attempted to have influence over official actions and interfered with personnel management.
CATS CEO resigns: John Lewis announced Thursday that he’ll resign as CEO of the Charlotte Area Transit System effective Nov. 30. His departure comes as the system faces a mountain of challenges. (Biz Journal)
Phillips Place theater closing: (Ledger) Regal Phillips Place movie theater in SouthPark is permanently closing Sunday night, and Charlotte developer Lincoln Harris plans to build a 10-story, 250,000 s.f. office tower on the site as part of an ongoing development at Phillips Place.
CATS lines closed this weekend for maintenance: (WFAE) The Charlotte Area Transit System will close its light rail and streetcar lines this weekend through Monday, Oct. 17 at 5 a.m., to repair track beds, signal crossings and signal systems. During that time, CATS will provide buses to shuttle people between the Lynx Blue Line and CityLYNX Gold Line stops.
Kroger buys Albertsons for $24.6B: (CNBC) Supermarket company Kroger, which owns Harris Teeter and is the second-largest grocer by market share in the United States, is buying the Albertsons chain of groceries in a deal valued at $24.6B.
New golf club opening in SouthPark: (Ledger) Intown Golf, an Atlanta-based members-only indoor golf club, is scheduled to open a 13,000 s.f. location in Apex SouthPark in the spring of 2023 that will include golf simulators and instruction, a bar and restaurant, a large covered patio and an outdoor putting green.
Matt Rhule fired: (Observer) Carolina Panthers head coach Matt Rhule was fired Monday with less than three full seasons in the role and an 11-27 record.
Boys pumping iron: (Ledger) Since the pandemic, more preteen and teenage boys are packing gyms to build muscle like their social media idols, but some worry that it’s contributing to eating disorders and other body image conditions in boys.
Independent doctors: (Kaiser Health News via Observer) The number of independent doctors in the United States is dwindling as more and more sell their practices to giant healthcare systems or quit practicing medicine. Exacerbating the trend is the fact that billions of dollars in federal aid at the beginning of the crisis favored large hospital systems, even as lawmakers vowed to fight consolidation.
From the Ledger family of newsletters
Surprise vacations: We unpack the trend behind “mystery vacations,” where travel companies plan trips for clients but don’t tell them where they’re headed until departure time.
Battle of the Book Clubs: Charlotte Mecklenburg Library has a tournament underway between local book clubs with the goal of connecting local readers to the resources available to them at the library. Nearly 1,000 readers in 177 book clubs are participating.
Hot September rezonings🔥: Our roundup of last month’s rezoning petitions shows projects springing up all over the city, including apartments and townhomes on Scaleybark Road, Billy Graham Parkway and the Reedy Creek Park area, as well as a plan submitted by NoDa restaurant Goodyear House.
Checking in on the movies: Three months after it opened, we checked in with Charlotte’s first independent non-profit arthouse movie about how ticket sales and membership numbers are growing.
CMS website review: Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools rolled out a new website this month. We rounded up some of the site’s improvements and drawbacks.
Changing signs: The N.C. Department of Transportation has plans to change the signs at Exit 4 on I-485 so they read “Steele Creek” and not “Fort Mill.” Exit 4 spills onto Hwy 160, which is Steele Creek Road and runs into the growing Steele Creek area.
Analysis on CATS resignation: We asked the UNC Charlotte Urban Institute’s Ely Portillo to provide analysis about the Thursday announcement that John Lewis will resign in November from his role as CEO of the Charlotte Area Transit System.
Traffic change in Elizabeth: Charlotte Department of Transportation is making changes to the traffic pattern on 7th Street as it studies the traffic flow there. Community leaders in the Elizabeth neighborhood said they asked the city to consider eliminating the road’s reversible lanes and put in a dedicated turn lane.
Ways of Life (🔒)
Donna England has made a business of cleaning tombstones at cemeteries around the region. She calls it “Steward Of God’s Acre — Cleaning With A Purpose.”
For several months in 2020 and 2021, the Charlotte Area Transit System turned a car lane into a bus and bicycle lane on Central Avenue, and a survey of residents about that experiment shows the hurdles Charlotte will have to overcome in seeking to restore its battered bus system and get drivers to opt for public transportation over their private cars.
The Ledger’s ace pro soccer writer Carroll Walton looks back at the Charlotte FC’s inaugural season and she offers five burning questions for the offseason, along with a look back on the season with 5 best goals, 5 best fan traditions and the 5 best editions of Fútbol Friday.
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Executive editor: Tony Mecia; Managing editor: Cristina Bolling; Staff writer: Lindsey Banks; Contributing editor: Tim Whitmire, CXN Advisory; Contributing photographer/videographer: Kevin Young, The 5 and 2 Project