Cupsleeves and Camaraderie: The Bonding Power of K-pop Fan Events

By: Kayla Gayle
07/04/2023
en
Thumbnail courtesy of Radiya

One aspect of the K-pop fan scene that discerns itself from others is the events hosted by fans. Around the world, cupsleeve events are held to bring a sense of community to K-pop fans on a local level.  

Orlando, Florida is a hub for K-pop events. Every month there are multiple café events and activities, such as K-pop skating nights, paint-n-sips, and raves hosted throughout the city. These events are organized by fellow fans who volunteer for long hours of their days to plan these events. EnVi spoke with three event organizers in the city to learn how and why they host.

Stray Kids in Florida

Stray Kids in Florida is dedicated to promoting events for the K-pop boy group Stray Kids across the state. Zero, who uses they/them pronouns, said that when they started in October 2021, there were no events for the group in Florida.

The 23-year-old creator of the organization expressed they think they’re well-equipped to host K-pop events due to their college background in marketing and small business management. As the self-described “top dog” of Stray Kids in Florida, Zero handles the operations, logistics, and communications of the organization. 

The group hosted a circus-themed cupsleeve “Welcome to the Zone” in both Orlando and Davie, Florida. Like all café events it’s hosted, these were planned two months before they were held. In a collaborative process with hosts and volunteers, Zero first decides on a theme for an event. They then decide on when and where the event will be held. Zero shared that they wished it was easier finding venues as only a few venues can hold the number of attendees Stray Kids in Florida anticipates.

Due to the organization hosting at multiple locations, the price to hold the events can reach up to $1,000. While profits from past events are used to fun upcoming ones, Zero revealed that they sometimes “front the money” for events.

Members use a Discord server to help communicate among the 10 hosts and 80 volunteers. The volunteers are a part of numerous teams: the content, graphics, product design, and decoration teams. “Working alone as the sole and main planner is really, really hard. And I just want to reiterate that without them I would not be able to do this, not even in the slightest,” Zero said about the volunteers. “Because having all these different brains to think on one topic makes it so much easier to get anything done. And I just really love them.”

Stray Kids in Florida’s goal for 2023 is to branch out into more multi-fandom events. “We don’t want to create a monopoly, that’s not our idea,” Zero said about an increase in new Stray Kids events being hosted. “We were just there as a placeholder until people came to fill in the spots, so we’re focusing on more multi-fandom and larger scale events.” 

The organization hosted its first events of that kind in a collaboration with ATLocal Entertainment, an Atlanta-based company that aims to build a bond between fans and artists around the world. They hosted two events with TikTok personality JJang E and emerging artist TOSHI as special guests: a Bowling Night and a Pop-up Barista event.

During Bowling Night, the two guests bowled and played arcade games with attendees. TOSHI also performed a set of original songs and covers in a private rented room for the event. The night was also filled with raffles, games, and opportunities for attendees to shop from tabling vendors. The Pop-up Barista event had the guests serve fans as they worked as barista at a local boba shop. 

While Zero shared they love organizing events, there are hardships involved in being the head of the organization. “Honestly, it’s probably finding the motivation to wake up every morning and continue planning because a lot of the days I just want to lay down and not touch any of it,” Zero said about the hardest part of planning events. “I really like this whole process. I love planning the events, but sometimes it’s a little overwhelming. When you’re planning three events at the same time. You don’t want to do any of it.”

However, Zero noted they find strength through their volunteers, vendors, and attendees. With the positive feedback they receive after each event from fans, Zero shared it motivates the Stray Kids in Florida team to continue to plan them. 

“In the terms of everyday K-pop stan life, I think it just adds variety,” Zero said about fan-organized events. “…K-pop events really start to create a community between fans and I think that’s really necessary in a lot of people’s lives.”

Purple You Orlando

Purple You Orlando is a volunteer-based event organizer that hosts monthly events for the local K-pop community. The organization started officially in the spring of 2021 with its five hosts. 

Since then, Purple You Orlando has hosted cupsleeve café events for BTS members’ birthdays and album release parties. It also hosted social events such as K-pop FanArt Fairs, ARMY Day of Service, and photocard trading events.

“I think it’s important because I hear this a lot from a lot of people that in their day-to-day life they don’t have K-pop friends… and these events kind of help expose them to a bigger community that seems hidden but is actually really big,” Checka, a Purple You Orlando host, said. 

Checka revealed the hosts like to plan event themes where patrons get to dress up. Purple You Orlando hosted a “Jimin’s Coven” birthday café event where attendees wore witch costumes to celebrate the BTS member’s birthday.

Due to the anticipated number of attendees, the organization hosts member birthday events across two days and orders about 600 cup sleeves. For events that include all seven members of BTS, such as an anniversary event, Purple You Orlando orders 1,000 cup sleeves to prepare for a larger crowd. 

The five hosts share access to their “Planning Guide” document and event expense sheet to organize the events. Through the guide they can organize their plan for decorations, pricing and supply, vendors, venues, and volunteers. They also plan the design and schedule for the promotional posts of each event.

Purple You Orlando has a theme for each event that influences the specific items it gets manufactured. For example, Checka designed a luggage tag and passport cover exclusively for the travel-themed birthday event for BTS member V. “It’s kind of a unique thing and you know we only do a small run for the event, only maybe like 100 or so items and then we don’t bring them back so it’s kind of cool in that aspect,” Checka added. 

With the expense sheet, Checka is able to plan and budget the cost of goods and decorations needed for the events. Events could cost up to $3,000 but vary depending on what items the organization offers to patrons. “People don’t realize how much these goods cost because we’re providing so many,” Checka said.

Checka revealed the hardest part of planning events is the financial aspect. However, Purple You Orlando is able to cover expenses through tier donations. Attendees are able to preorder one of three tiers levels to receive exclusive fan-made merchandise; the higher the tier, the more goods included in one’s purchase. The donations raised from an event will rollover to cover the cost of the next planned event.

Outside of cupsleeve events, Purple You Orlando also hosts a seasonal FanArt Fair. The event features 25 to 40 vendors who sell fan-made merchandise of multiple K-pop groups. Fans are able to shop a variety of local merchandise. With products inspired by multiple K-pop groups and soloists, attendees are able to purchase items such as photocard holders, candles, cosmetics, and varsity jackets. 

“I think fans enjoy these events because it’s an opportunity to really be immersed into the BTS or K-pop stuff you know, day to day life is just like work, school. And then maybe you will have concerts that you can go to but besides the concerts when you do really get the chance to like geek out?” Checka said. “These local events are really kind of like the only way people can come out and really like geek out with other people about it.”

We Are 7 Events

We Are 7 Events is a K-pop event organization co-owned by a mother-daughter duo, Rekha and Kaia. For the past year, the two have hosted BTS-centric events but they plan on expanding to other groups. 

Like most K-pop event organizers, Rekha and Kaia have hosted their fair share of cupsleeve events. Unique to We Are 7 Events, it also hosts special activity events. For RM’s birthday the organization planned an art gallery date inspired by the rapper’s love for museums. It also planned for fans to “spend the day with RJ” by visiting a local alpaca farm to celebrate Jin’s birthday. 

“We wanted ours to be totally different,” Rekha said about the events. “We wanted our atmosphere to be more of what the boys have taught us, basically to be as a family, to love one another, and things like that.”

The two said that especially with BTS on break, they want to create a safe space for ARMY, BTS fans. They said they want fans to be among other people that lean on BTS for comfort and make friendships through these events that brings happiness to everyone. 

Kaia said she is happy if even just 15 people attend the special events, as long as everyone is happy and enjoys the activities.

With Rekha’s 10 years experience of event planning, she is able to plan the logistics of events while Kaia uses her artistic background to design the necessary assets for events such as cup sleeves and posters. 

The two said that coming up with a theme is the hardest part of the planning process; Rekha said sometimes she loses sleep at night thinking about a theme. But after they select one, everything else falls into place. 

We Are 7 Events hosted a birthday event for V in December. The theme of the singer’s cupsleeve was “Tae in Paris” with roses and framed photos of V decorating the café. In front of a photo backdrop of the Eiffel Tower, a cardboard cutout of V sat at a table with an extra chair allowing attendees to take photos, mimicking a Paris date night with V. 

Rekha said they estimate an attendance of 200 fans when planning for the cupsleeve events. 

“We’re only a year old and for us to have grown as much as we have shocks us because we never really thought so many people would come to our events…,” Rekha said. “We’re very grateful for everyone that comes to our events.”

We Are 7 Events is able to fund the events held through donation tiers and vendor fees. The owners said that they do have to spend their own personal money to purchase goods for the events. 

“I love the boys tremendously so I feel like if I’m celebrating them, it’s okay for me to pay as long as I can afford it, then I’ll do it,” Rekha said. “I don’t spend that much money but I still come out of my pocket to do what I want to do for them.”

Before the night of an event, Rekha said she becomes restless and nauseous due to nerves. But on the day of an event, once she sees the first group of ARMYs walk in she has a smile on her face and is ready to enjoy the day to its fullest. The hosts said these events bring them joy just as it does to attendees. They said they will continue to host events for as long as they can, no matter the circumstances.

“This is our way of giving back. So yeah, anything we can do, regardless of it being for ARMY or not. If we can help, we’ll do it. So that’s what we’re here for, that’s what We Are 7 stands for,” Rekha said.

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