On Saturday, October 16, 2021, NovelKeys hosted one of the first major east coast meetups, as the pandemic starts to (hopefully) wane. The meetup venue was the historic Hotel Morgan in downtown Morgantown, West Virginia, which first opened in 1925 and has served visitors to the city and University of West Virginia ever since.
Based on anecdotal conversations, the overall impression of the event is overwhelmingly positive. The meetup was held in the hotel's grand ballroom, with white marble floors under 2-story vaulted ceilings adorned with crystal chandeliers, and tall windows that provided all the natural light you could hope to have. This was arguably one of the nicest venues for a keyboard meetup.
Around 150 hobbyists attended, which is a decent turnout given the recent concerns about COVID spikes. Safety precautions were taken, with plenty of available masks and hand sanitizer, along with a limited number of ticket sales to ensure no overcrowding and plenty of open space in the meeting room.
There were no major giveaways, but each attendee received an entrance goodie bag with a t-shirt, stickers, and some items from Cherry. The host, NovelKeys, conducted a silent auction on a raw oxidized Keycult 2/65 with an unreleased Xwing keycap set on it. Other vendors attending included Cannon Keys, Drop, GMK, Keycult, Keyhive, Omnitype and ZAP! Cables. Popular streamers Apiary Keyboards and Taeha Types were also covering the event.
Previous (pre-COVID) meetups felt like they were comprised of largely the same or similar groups of people traveling around the country to different events. The growth of the hobby over the past couple years was evident, because this event seemed to attract hobbyists who most veterans had never met before. It was likely the first meetup for many of the attendees. As great as it is to re-connect with friends and acquaintances at a larger meetup, like Keycon, it was also nice to see new faces in the community and meet new people.
Compared to larger venues like Keycon, Seattle, or DC, there were less artisans on display at this meetup. That said, there were a few impressive artisan display boxes, and some keyboards with great matched artisans, such as these Analog Dreams and Taro builds, from the keyset designer Pwade himself.
(4 close up photos by Tyson)
Of course, there were at least a couple hard core artisan collectors present, and the attendees were able to enjoy a few well-stocked boxes of resin goodness. In particular, there were some rarer artisans from, Artkey, Clack, GAF, Hello, HWS, KWK, Nightcaps, Omniclectic, RitualMaster and a few other notable makers.
The breakout sessions were as follows:
The feedback on the breakout sessions were that they were well-organized and informative. It is nice to have change of pace and other things to do during a regional meetup than simply walking around and looking at people's stuff, especially if you are less familiar with the other attendees. This meetup felt long. It ran from 11AM to 5PM, which is on the longer side compared to other smaller meetups. However, the side activities such as the breakouts and the tours provided enough variety for people who wanted to stay throughout the event.
There was also a limited-seat session called the "NovelKeys Experience", which took people to the NovelKeys office for a tour, provided sneak peeks at future products, and some exclusive trials of an upcoming typing video game. A small post-event crowd gathered at the location to mingle with vendors and session hosts, and play ping pong.
Multiple attendees mentioned a showstopper of a board: a denim-clad Filco Majestouch or "Jilco" by Speedycake. This was Dongblaster's selection for best-in-show.
Speaking on behalf of NovelKeys to Artisan Collector, Nephlock said they were "really happy with how everything went. Our hope for this was to keep it safe during COVID, but to still provide a fairly intimate meetup to treat as a pilot of sorts for the future. this allowed us a smaller sample of what worked, what didn't, and kept it manageable logistically." Based on the photos and feedback from attendees, it sounds like a mission well accomplished for NovelKeys, and a win for the community.All in all, this felt to be a newer kind of meetup that is representative of the growth of the hobby. It bodes well for future vendor-led events, which may be more accessible to newer hobbyists and hopefully usher curious people further into the world of keyboards and artisans.
Many thanks to Dongblaster and Tyson for contributing their photo albums of the meetup (links below).  Dongblaster's album