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Pokémon Go Fest’s happiest attendees are the people still waiting in line

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Despite hours in the line, fans stay upbeat

pokemon go fest line Allegra Frank/Polygon

Those of us inside of the Pokémon Go Fest grounds have had a bit of a tough day. But the people who were still standing outside of Chicago’s Grant Park to get into the event, hours after it began? They were having a blast.

Around 1 p.m. CT — four hours after the event opened for media and early bird ticket holders — I caught up with the long, long, long line of people still waiting to check out Pokémon Go Fest. This was despite hours of serious server errors, the crowd’s repeated jeers at CEO John Hanke and fellow Niantic staffers and the increasing humidity inside the park.

Some of those still waiting had been snaking around Grant Park for upward of two hours, they told me. Some had driven from the nearby Chicago suburbs, while others had flown in from farther off, like New York. Considering the Pokémon Go Fest ticket price of $20 (or more, for anyone who had to get them through scalpers) and time folks spent waiting in line in the sweltering heat, I wondered if these patient Pokémon fans were regretting how they’d chosen to spend their Saturday.

Yet the reports of how unplayable the game had become as the day wore on didn’t seem to faze anyone who hadn’t actually entered Grant Park yet. A large family with baby in tow, who’d driven down for two hours only to wait in line just as long, told me they were excited for the experience. So did a couple who came in from Philadelphia, both wearing Pokémon-themed sunglasses and t-shirts. They’d flown in the night before, so they’d had some time to check out Chicago.

“I’m a little bit annoyed,” the man said when I asked if the game’s connection problems were a turnoff.

The woman stepped in, though. “We’re just here to have a good time.”

That was the resounding response I got from the people in line. After all the disarray, chaos and apathy inside of Pokémon Go Fest, the continued optimism of the folks right outside of it was endearing.

A family of four from just outside of the city may not have had as far to travel to the event as others, but they still had a lot to lose. The group came to Grant Park to celebrate their Pokémon-loving son’s birthday. It must be a bit of a bummer that the game was barely working today, then, I said, especially after all that time the family had spent lined up.

“No,” the birthday boy replied. He was still excited to see what was going on inside. “I’m just here to have a good time.”

His little sister, who barely reached my knee, summed it up best.

“The most important thing is, have fun,” she said.