As an annual passholder, and frequent visitor to Disneyland, I have noticed an influx of social groups over the past year. Large groups of people who are often tattooed, pierced and wearing denim vests covered with patches and buttons.
On one of the popular Disney Parks message boards, some people have voiced their concerns about having Disney “gangs” in the park and even starting rumors that fights have broken out between different groups.
We would like to set the record straight when it comes to social groups like The Main Street Elite and The Hitchhikers so we decided to reach out to them and find out what these groups are all about.
The following is an interview we conducted with the founder of The Hitchhikers, a Northern California based Social Club, that considers themselves a family of people who share a common interest of all things Disney.
We hope it answers some questions and gives you a little bit of insight into exactly who these people are.
Tell us a little bit about who The Hitchhikers are (when you were founded, how it began, why it began, how many members you currently have etc..)
THSC began as an idea bounced back and forth between my husband David and me after one of our many weekly trips out to Disneyland back in February. We ran into the Neverlanders founders, Angel and Cyndee, at Disney’s California Adventure and we inquired about membership and whether or not they had thought about having an official Northern California chapter.
They graciously replied that they had thought about it before, but they were focused on their current members now and hanging out with them can always have a chance at an invite in the future.
David and I loved everything about it, it was nothing we had seen before and we wanted to know more! We went home and started researching, we looked at blogs, Googled Disney social clubs in general, and when we went back a few weeks later in March, and saw The Neverlanders again, we knew this was something we had to take on full force, but on our own.
It wasn’t just a social club, it was a family club. These strangers had built a family foundation on their love for Disney and who wouldn’t want a piece of that?!
So this trip home was a little different. For the next two weeks we were brainstorming name ideas, catch phrases, etc. We finally had a solid list of 30 names. While our two girls were in bed, the hubby and I sat by the fire (I know cliche but so true). I looked up at our fire place mantel with all of our Disneyland, Disney World, and Disney Cruise memorabilia and saw a couple of our souvenirs, one was a glass snow globe of Leota and the other was Hitchhiker bobble heads from Disney World… I then screamed out, THE HITCHHIKERS!
David looked at me and smiled, we slept on it and the following morning while David was an hour away at work and I was getting the kids ready for school, I received a text message from David saying “The Hitchhikers is starting to stick with me, it sounds so right”.
I knew then The Hitchhikers it was! It was literally the same process we went through naming our girls, this club is truly our baby and we hold it so near and dear to our hearts.
How many members do you have?
We currently have 32 original Northern California members who were handpicked by the founders. We traveled with these separate families to Disney often, so we knew them, but they did not know each other.
We have 11 Southern California members, who were completely strangers (but are now family) and this number is including our “Lil Hitchhikers”.
We plan on growing a bit more in Southern California in the near future, then membership will become a bit more of a timeline. I’m just setting up a good foundation for our So Cal original chapter.
How does one become a member?
Our membership into THSC is on an “invite only” status right now. Other than the original Northern California members, this has been the active status of the club. Mortals can reach out on Instagram @thehitchhikerssc #thehitchhikerssc, but the “Invite only” consists of a formal introduction through email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or message through Facebook (www.facebook.com/thehitchhikerssc) introducing yourself, leaving a quick summary of why you are interested, usually prospective mortals will tell us how many times they go to the park and where their passion for Disney started.
Then my executive Nikki (Tinker Bell), my vice president David (Jack Skellington) or mydelf, Antoinette (Sorcerer Mickey), will reply with a personal message and attach dates and times of our upcoming meets and activities and invite you to join us.
The mortal then decides if they would like to pursue a membership from there by coming out and hanging out with us. Sometimes we have a formal vote for new members, but the basic rule of invite is, when we feel like we cannot live without the mortal, talking to them daily, already feeling like they are a part of our hitchhiking family, going on member outings and inviting mortals or if mortal can’t make it, everyone is mentioning how much they wish they were there, then we choose to present them with a formal invite, which is a death certificate and it is usually presented in a very cool way and personalized to the new member.
What do you look for in a member?
We want someone who thrives off all the goodies the Disney Parks have to offer. Mainly we want not only a Disney fan, but someone who is truly looking for a Disney family! Someone who knows how to respect cast members, respect the park (picking up trash, reporting anything unsettling, praising cast members at city hall, etc), follow the parks rules and guidelines, and especially knows how to have fun!
Have you ever had to deny a membership or kick a member out? If so, why?
We have never had to “kick a member out” for any reason and I hope we never come across an issue like that, but we have passed on invites. Mainly the club as a whole did not “click” or feel a total connection with another person or family as a whole, so an invite was not presented.
What are some of the rules the members must adhere to in order to remain a member?
Visit the parks at least three times a year, and that should coincide with attending local meets, which are held in Nor Cal and So Cal, such as a ghoulish gathering, usually a BBQ, pool party, or a Disney movie premiere. Abide by all park rules and guidelines, be respectful to cast members, guests, and fellow members.
How often do you meet? Is it mandatory?
We meet in the parks about every two weeks unless Nor Cal/So Cal throws a local meet in between and the So Cal members are haunting the parks daily.
The meetings are not mandatory, but if you are truly looking for a Disney family, you will make it mandatory for yourself.
Some feel that having such prominent groups in the parks may lead to conflict. How do you feel about that and is it something you worry about?
I can see something standing out so proud and strong can always lead to someone being intimidated, but if they take the time to find out about our club and vision there is no need for conflict. We have a great open communication and bond with all of the other social clubs and there should be no reason for any negativity from outside sources.
How do you define The Hitchhikers and what are the group’s long term goals?
I define THSC as a strong Disney family who loves to enjoy each other’s company in the parks and at outside events and activities. Our main long term goals would be to make an impact with our following such as fundraising for worthy causes, volunteering, and using our fan base for making a difference any positive way possible!
If there was one thing you wanted the general public to know about The Hitchhikers, what would it be?
We’re a crazy bunch of ghoulish ghosts, dying to meet any foolish mortals looking for a Disney family! We always have room for one more!
In reaching out to these social groups, I have found them to be nothing more than hardcore Disney fans who enjoy the parks and each other’s company.
They are very approachable people who care about the well being of the parks and are just proud to show off their passion.
I want to thank The Hitchhikers for taking the time to speak with us and we will be publishing some more insights into some of the major Social Clubs that you may see around the parks.
Keep checking back for our next interview with the leader of The Main Street Elite!