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The Super Groups
Northeast Ohio Hiking Club
Looking for some company for a leisurely evening stroll through the park? Or is a rugged 10 miles more your thing? How about a hike-kayak combo, a hiking-camping trip, or a weekender to "hike" the sites of the nation's Capitol? Whether it's a walk with other nature photographers or a beginners backpacking lesson, you've got it here, and way more.
This is the epitome of a wildly successful Meetup group. There are 1,750 hikers of all levels and 21 organizers scheduling outings from Cuyahoga Valley National Park to Kirtland to North Olmsted and beyond. There is at least one hike a day, every day, year round.
Anywhere from five to 50 hikers show up each time and the beauty of it is that organizers scope out the terrain in advance and let you know exactly what to expect: stroller friendly, great for canines, not for kids, distance, estimated time, and rating from easy to very advanced, say, with cliff climbing.
If you're looking for regular hoofing, they've got that too: There's an easy beginners hike at 6:30 p.m. every Friday, and a moderate hike with some climbing at 11 a.m. every Sunday, both in Rocky River Reservation.
The Happy Hour Group
Looking for after-work frivolity and stress-busting libation but, as you look around the office, you realize you don't want to happy it up with those people? There's a meetup for that. This group sets up a happy hour at least every couple weeks and draws a big crowd with up to 200 of the 1,250 members joining in.
Alternating between west-side, east-side, and downtown locations, every spot they hit serves decent grub. "I've kept this an upscale happy hour. This is a great group of people who like to go to nice places," says organizer Cheri Dabrowski. The restaurants have been very generous, offering the group extended happy hours, deeper than ordinary discounts, and sometimes free appetizers.
Happy hours begin at 4 p.m. on a weekday that's not Friday, but there is an occasional weekend offering. When a particularly large number of drinkers sign up, the group tries to wrangle a private room so you needn't rub elbows with ordinary patrons — handy in case your coworkers show up.
Northeast Ohio Party Connection
This Akron-based group is also fond of happy hours and most often has theirs at the bars dotting the Portage Lakes area. But that's not all they do. There's a well-rounded calendar with something to interest any of the 500-plus members.
The Party Connection heads out for concerts and clubs, celebrates birthdays, goes to local festivals and events, hits dances, and has a bunch of good old-fashioned house parties. Summer soirées are likely to involve someone's backyard pool while the chillier months have inspired chili parties.
The group does come north once in a while too, recently visiting Brunswick's Mapleside Farms, and they plan a Goodtime III dinner cruise for next month.
A Drinker's Trifecta
No matter your preferred poison, there is a Meetup especially for you. Cindy Jolley organizes three distinct groups: Beer Lovers, the Cleveland Wine Club, and Spirits and Fun. Beer Lovers is the largest with more than 1,000 members, the wine club has about 900, and Spirits and Fun comes in with 400. There is easily more than one outing a week between the three groups, and since many members belong to more than one of them, this drinking crowd qualifies as a super group.
"Beer lovers is a hoot! Then you take the same members and put them in the wine group and put a wine glass in their hand, they become more reserved," observes Jolley who hails from Sheffield Lake.
Her get-togethers are held all over the county, draw between 20 and 80 people each, and are successful, she says, because everyone is so welcoming to newcomers. Most outings involve straight-up drinking but there are sometimes fund-raisers for causes like domestic violence, particularly with the Spirits and Fun crowd.
Jolley tries to get deals for her members at whatever bar they plan to hit, and does it for the sheer fun of it. "I'm lucky if they buy me a drink," she says. "I enjoy what I do. The day I don't enjoy it is the day I hand it over to someone else."