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Beverly Godfrey column: Shining a light on the value of fandom

Harry Styles and drummer Sarah Jones perform at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul on July 1. The One Direction member made his Minnesota solo debut to an arena full of appreciative fans. Jeff Wheeler / Minneapolis Star Tribune1 / 5
Scott Seavey and his daughter Meghan Seavey, 15, of Lincoln, Neb., wait for the Harry Styles concert to start July 1 in St. Paul. Beverly Godfrey / bgodfrey@duluthnews.com2 / 5
A note like this was put on every seat inside the Xcel Energy Center for the Harry Styles concert on July 1. Beverly Godfrey / bgodfrey@duluthnews.com3 / 5
Fans illuminate Xcel Energy Center with pink lights using Post-It notes on their phones as Harry Styles sings onstage July 1. Beverly Godfrey / bgodfrey@duluthnews.com4 / 5
Meghan Seavey, 15, of Lincoln, Neb., reacts to seeing pink lights fill Xcel Energy Center, the result of a fan project she had spearheaded for the past year. Beverly Godfrey / bgodfrey@duluthnews.com5 / 5

We bought tickets a year ago, drove to St. Paul in a downpour. Waited in line outside the venue, then again at the merchandise table, T-shirt money in hand. Bought some nachos, a slushie.

Making our way inside the Xcel Energy Center on July 1, my daughter and I found pink Post-Its stuck to our seats with a note: "Place Post it over Your flash light & Hold it up during Sweet Creature @HarryProjectMN." Looking around, I saw more notes. One on each seat, actually — all 20,000 of them.

This is the dedication of Harry Styles fans.

Who could pull off such an undertaking? Turns out, she was sitting in the seat right next to me.

Meet Meghan Seavey, 15, of Lincoln, Neb. She has been a Styles fan since the beginning of 1D. For the uninitiated, that would be One Direction, the boy band started on the British reality TV show "The X Factor" in 2010.

Her fan project started a year ago with one friend, then expanded to include 15 people Meghan had met through Twitter, with six doing most of the heavy lifting — copying, cutting, sorting, distributing. The day of the concert was the first time they met in person, said her father, Scott Seavey, who accompanied her to the show. He's an accounting professor, so maybe some of his organizational skills have rubbed off.

"It was a great exercise in creative teamwork," he said. "I'm really proud of her taking initiative, seeing it through to the finish."

Fans have organized light projects at previous concerts, usually a rainbow design, different sections assigned to light up red, orange, yellow, green, blue and purple. Meghan wanted to do something different. The color pink was inspired by the album's own artwork. The song was chosen because of its inclusiveness.

"It's such a good song that doesn't include any gender," Meghan said. "It's simple and sweet."

We waited as the arena filled and people picked up their notes. Kacey Musgraves was the opening act. Then, the main event. The music started; the fans screamed. I grew nervous for Meghan as "Sweet Creature" approached in the set list. She had a lot at stake. It was a happy relief when the song started, and thousands of fans participated, holding up their lights, bathing the arena in an ethereal, pink glow.

Meghan put her hand over her mouth. She was shaking and recording the scene on her phone. After the song, I asked her how she thought it went.

"I feel overwhelmed, and I'm so happy," she said.

Her dad smiled with pride.

Styles expressed his appreciation from the stage, saying, "Thank you, whoever organized the pink things. That looked amazing."

Meghan said her group chat blew up for five minutes over that.

"She's still pretty high about that one," Scott Seavey said a couple days later. "I don't think she slept for one second that night. ... It was chitter-chatter and awe the whole night."

Chris Riemenschneider, a music reviewer for the Minneapolis Star Tribune, remarked on the project, too. "It worked as well as more formal, hi-fi lighting trickery used by Taylor Swift and Coldplay audiences," he wrote.

It cost the young fans $200 for the supplies. Scott Seavey said Meghan mowed a lot of lawns to help pay her part.

Meghan said the experience taught her a lot about working with people and being a good manager. Her first bit of advice would be to find the right people to work with.

"Building a team and making sure you have everything you need to know, doing your research, especially the venue," she said.

To pass along their message to 20,000 fans, some girls printed their notes off home computers, others used a print shop. Many, however, were written by hand.

"I wrote 800, then I gave up and just started photocopying them," Meghan said.

"She sat there for about three days doing nothing but writing with a pink pen," her father added. "It started to get very stressful."

Scott Seavey said he's impressed by what his daughter achieved.

"I think she learned that if she puts her mind to something, that she can accomplish it," he said. "This was a big project, especially for a 15-year-old, connecting with so many people."

As a parent, I wondered what he thought about his daughter spending so much time on a fan project. What does he think of her planning this with strangers on the internet?

He said he has always given her two main guidelines: One, remember that everything on the internet lasts forever. Two: Always do your research; make sure anyone you're talking to is actually who they say they are.

(He practices what he preaches. After I started talking to them at the concert, he looked me up on his phone and read a couple of my columns.)

"Meghan's pretty darn good at that kind of stuff," he said. "It's giving me comfort she's going to be OK. I think it's pretty cool that this group of young ladies used technology to come together on a project. It was a really neat experience."

As for the time spent, he sees value in it.

"It was fantastic. I loved it," he said. "I've been to One Direction. It's been interesting to see the fandom grow and take on some of these social issues. ... This isn't just a bunch of screaming girls; it's a movement to affect positive change."

Meghan will be a high school sophomore next year. She doesn't have a profession in mind yet. It would seem, though, that she turned attending a rock concert into something she could put on her resume. I'd even call what she did art. She coordinated thousands of people toward a common goal. She created an experience, influenced people's mood.

"I think the hope that all of us had was that it would be successful, and everyone would have their own little meaning about it," she said. "For the stadium to come together and connect through this project, that was our main reason to really motivate ourselves."

Beverly Godfrey is features editor of the Duluth News Tribune. How did the girls get into the arena the night before to place the notes? A report on that might be a job for our investigative team. I have an idea, but my calls to the Xcel Energy Center were not immediately returned during the holiday week.

Beverly Godfrey

Beverly Godfrey is the Duluth News Tribune features editor. You can reach her at bgodfrey@duluthnews.com.  

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