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Join the club: Area groups let like-minded Wichitans share their hobbies, interests

  • Eagle correspondent
  • Published Saturday, May 18, 2013, at 5:24 p.m.
  • Updated Wednesday, Oct. 9, 2013, at 2:53 p.m.

Wichita Meetup groups

Following is a sampling of a few of the Wichita-area groups organized through Meetup.com:

•  Wichita Eats: Food lovers united to try new cuisine. Members have outings scheduled on May 25 and June 22.

•  Wichita Atheists: Discussion group for non-theists.

•  Wichita Models and Photographers: Networking opportunities for models and photographers.

If you think pugs are a good way to meet up with others, it turns out you’re not barking up the wrong tree. The Wichita Pug Meetup Group offers owners of this particular breed of pooch a place to come and unwind with the pug in tow.

Julie Cornett, organizer of the club, has been with the group for the past six years and in that time has seen its membership – human and canine – grow, she said.

“Pugs are particularly good at getting along,” Cornett said. “You don’t have a lot of problems.”

Group meetings, typically held bimonthly, consist of “pug play,” refreshments, conversation and an all-around “really good time,” Cornett said.

The group is just one of more than 50 that celebrate specific interests, hobbies and beliefs within 25 miles of Wichita and are organized through the website Meetup.com.

Some of the most active among those are Wichita Moms and Tots, The South Central Kansas Hikers Meetup Group and The Wichita Kansas Vegetarian Meetup Group, according to the website, which aims to bring together people of similar likes and interests who otherwise may not connect.

To find a group that appeals to you, visit Meetup.com and click on “ find a Meetup group.” You can search by geographic location (such as within two to 100 miles of Wichita) or select among 33 categories, including Arts & Culture, Career & Business and Cars & Motorcycles.

Those interested can get involved at in-person events or by connecting virtually with other members. The local vegetarian group, for example, hosts regular Meatless Monday Vegan Potluck get-togethers.

The website also provides an avenue for those looking to create a group. (Just click on “start a Meetup group” at the top of the homepage to get started. The website’s plans start at $12.)

For the Wichita Pug Meetup Group – which has more than 130 members, according to the website – the meetings can get too large to accommodate the 30-plus pugs that show up. So the group occasionally rents a party room at All Paws Pet Center.

“When I see people, I just encourage them to come,” Cornett said. “Even people that don’t have a dog, if they just want to come enjoy the dogs playing.”

To help cover food costs for the meetings, Cornett typically charges a few dollars’ admission, but she said the entrance fee is negotiable.

“We always put down that, if you can’t pay it, please still come,” Cornett said. “We never want money to get in the way of people coming.”

The group’s activities come to an apex in October with its annual “Pugoween” event. Owners dress up their pugs in Halloween costumes, which Cornett said they generally enjoy.

“For the most part, they don’t mind dressing up,” Cornett said of the dogs. “When my Nikki puts on an outfit, she just prances around.”

But why pugs?

“I think they’re just really lovable,” Cornett said. “They just get into your heart. Once you’ve had it, it’s the dog you always want.”

Wichita Steampunk group

Otis elevator repair technician by day, Victorian science fiction character by night.

Jeremiah Loder, 40, leads the Wichita Steampunk group, just one of many local clubs Wichitans can join to keep themselves entertained this summer.

Steampunk is a fashion movement inspired by 1900s science fiction writers such as H.G. Wells and Jules Verne.

“Some people like sculpture, some people like painting; we just love to dress up,” Loder said. “We take what they thought the future would be like and dress up like that.”

Bronze bells, whistles, gears, monocles and parasols adorn steampunk costumes, which emulate a fanciful Victorian theme. People create their own unique costumes and adopt a “character,” which they assume every time they go out in steampunk gear.

This fuses together knowledge of sewing, metalworking and fashion sense – all of which typically does not come cheap, Loder said. Wichita Steampunk helps interested individuals get into the hobby cheaper, Loder said – he typically takes the group on “thrift shop tours” to pick up costume pieces.

“There’s some real high-dollar stuff out there, but I like to help people get into it cheaper,” Loder said. “There’s a lot of resources online for ideas. You can either buy it all and spend a godawful amount of money, or you can just hand-make it.”

Recently, Loder has been hosting “build nights” for Wichita Steampunk at least once a month at his garage, because he has the proper metalworking gear. These build nights are open to anyone interested in experimenting with steampunk, Loder said. A list of meeting times can be found on the group’s Meetup page.

Popularized in recent years by video games such as “BioShock Infinite,” movies and television, steampunk appeals to both science fiction nerds and businessmen alike, Loder said.

For local steampunk enthusiasts, there are ample opportunities to enjoy the Victorian-themed entertainment.

Old Cowtown Museum hosts a Steampunk Day yearly in May, which typically draws large crowds, Loder said. This year’s event is from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday.

In addition, the Emerald City Steampunk Expo is a three-day steampunk extravaganza that comes to the Hyatt Regency in November.

Aside from these official steampunk events, members of the club have been known to show up at Final Friday events in character.

“Usually people are full of questions, very inquisitive,” Loder said. “They want to take photos with you quite often. It puts a grin on your face.”

The club welcomes anyone interested in the hobby, he said.

“It’s a chance to be somebody different,” Loder said. “It’s a form of self-expression.”

Contributing: Lori O’Toole Buselt of The Eagle

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