June 10th, 2010
Bob Hoy at the 2005 Reunion
In the mid-90’s a group of Western TV fans chatted online in Yahoo’s groups, sorting themselves into areas of interest. The High Chaparral Discussion Group (HCDG) and High Chaparral Fan Fiction groups were small but retained a longstanding love of the show.
In early 2003 two visionary HCDG members decided it was time for cyber-friends to meet in person. Denise Lynch and Denise Billen-Meija planned a fan meeting at Old Tucson’s HC ranch set, hoping a few others from the HCDG would join them. “Denise Lynch knew Bob Hoy and asked him about it,” recalls Denise Billen-Meija, who ran The High Chaparral Reunion from 2003-2007. “He suggested we meet in Los Angeles and said he’d bring a few of ‘the guys’ for brunch. We thought about it for maybe three nanoseconds. Who would want Tucson instead of our heroes?”
With Bob Hoy on board and enthused, plans accelerated quickly. “It was Bob who suggested The Sportsmen’s Lodge,” Billen-Meija said. “He said everyone knew it and they did a great Sunday brunch. I think people don’t know everything Bob did to create that first reunion.” As Bob contacted celebrities fan excitement grew. Andy Klyde gave permission to use the show’s name and suggested David and Rose Dortort attend.
The High Chaparral Reunion was now a reality.
Andy Klyde and Denise Billen-Meija at the
2003 High Chaparral Reunion
Denise Billen-Meija ran three successful Reunions in 2003, 2005 and 2007, each larger than the last. The Sportsmen’s Lodge, a history-filled Hollywood gathering spot, became the official home of the HC Reunion, with a weekend culminating in an afternoon brunch with the stars, production crew and anyone associated with the show. Denise and her committee defined many Reunion staples – a chance to meet other HC fans, viewing of uncut episodes, good food shared with the cast and crew. Most importantly, her vision of a time for fans to honor and thank the talented artists who created The High Chaparral set the standard for all future events.
But after the 40th Anniversary Reunion in 2007 it was time for the founder and chief organizer to pass the baton. Planning for the next event started almost as soon as one ended and the details were all-consuming. “I promised my family last year that I would not do any more,” Billen-Meija said.
Fans and celebrities were asking – what about 2009? Penny McQueen helped Denise manage invitations for the ’07 event and she was publishing The High Chaparral Newsletter. “It obviously couldn’t be allowed to stop, and I’ve got project management experience so I thought with the right people it could be done,” McQueen said, “I’d never organized an event like this but I knew I had good people willing to work so I closed my eyes and jumped in.” The good help was a dedicated committee – Ginny Shook, Rusty LaGrange, Tanja Kostanstaki, and Marian Panter. The team looked at location first. “Since the fans pay for everything, including the guests, we ran a survey and asked them where they wanted to go,” McQueen continued. “The answer was unmistakable. Tucson. Let’s go home to the ranch.”
Fans at the 2003 High Chaparral Reunion
Destination Tucson 2009 continued many High Chaparral Reunion traditions. “That was important to us. Honoring the cast and crew, special one on one time with the stars, showing uncut episodes, fans meeting each other and forming friendships. We wanted to include all of those things,” McQueen said. Tucson and especially Old Tucson provided new opportunities for special events. “We had newspaper and TV coverage, and Tucson still remembers High Chaparral. There were over a hundred people at the ranch set! Like the old days when the show was filmed – very exciting for everyone and the cast loved it. For the fans it was an emotional moment, walking up the hill to the ranch, seeing the stars gathered at the Cannon ranch house.” Fans came from all over the world; such faraway places as Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, England, Australia, and New Zealand to share in the celebration of this special show.
For 2011 The High Chaparral Reunion continues to grow and mature. Penny added, “Early indications are attendance will increase, Old Tucson is gearing up to welcome us back, the fans and stars cant wait. We’ve learned a lot and are planning improvements, better ways of handling things. There are some surprises in store. And we’re looking at what we can do that’s special for our sponsors, because without them the Reunion wouldn’t happen.”