By Dani Frank
While online dating like OkCupid have become the matchmakers of the 21st century, with the ease of the Internet comes the loss of human interaction. Blind dates and speed dating may seem to be a blast from the past. Who wants to go out for dinner with the fear they might be heading for the door after meeting their date? Joining together our society’s web surfing skills with our desire for social interaction is Meetup.com.
A free online network for organizing, promoting and attending meet ups, Meetup has a group you’ll want to pay a visit to, whether you’re interested in dining out, drinking tea, dachshunds or, yes, dating. With groups organized by location, age, interest and more, find your new social circle with the click of a mouse. And for Connecticut singles seeking a night of dinner, dancing, drinking or even a night at the cinema, Jose Goneaga has a group for you to meet.
A member since 2008, Goenaga began attending to Meet-ups in 2008, after relocating to Connecticut from New York. “I started attending meet-ups and there were around 75 people at these events. Little by little I started meeting people and acquired my first group, Singles Going Wild, which I operate with two friends.” Now the operator of eight groups, totaling 6,000 members and reaching from Danbury to Dutchess County, NY, Goenaga says his penchant for social gatherings and connecting people has really become a part-time job.
A professional horseman by day and social butterfly by night, Goenaga’s weekly events require him to serve as an event planner, businessman, negotiator and matchmaker. Meet-ups within Goenaga’s groups consist of an element of food, of drink, and an activity, for which Goenaga arranges a set price and guarantees a certain number of attendees, arranged online through Meet-up. Past events have taken place at the hip Loft in South Norwalk and 84 Park in Stamford. To accommodate the crowd that his groups attract, with a typical participant to be 35-years-old, Goenaga will get the party started early.
“Basically what we do that’s different from everyone else, we bring in a DJ, he starts at around 7 o’clock at night, and we’ve also arranged drink specials, so it’s kind of a reverse happy hour all night long,” said Goenaga. Frequently, businesses and nightclubs will approach him to host an event, knowing that Goenaga’s singles Meet-ups will draw large crowds; around 70 people per event. Goenaga continues, “A nice niche for us is going to these ultra lounges; by the time the younger crowd comes in around 10 we’re starting to clear out, and then the lounge has had business all night long.”
In addition to high-energy nightclub events, Goenaga organizes boating, brunches, bowling, wine events, and more. “We do movie events on a regular basis, often at the Bethel Cinema, and we will meet ahead of time and visit a little wine restaurant next door,” says Goenaga. While attendees are required to pay for certain events, it is generally around $5 for an evening out, at local hotspots like Shelly’s on the River or Salt Water Grill, and Goenaga will also host free events whenever possible.
Attending is as easy as visiting meetup.com and RSVPing to an event. Goenaga welcomes anyone and everyone to attend, regardless of age, gender, or sexual preference. In his time as an organizer, Goenaga has found “People tend to connect and be a little friendlier in Connecticut, they are more open, and it’s a more comfortable vibe than when you go to clubs in New York City.” Looking for any further proof Meet-up is the 21st century tool for finding a mate? Goenaga himself is a proud Meet-up success story, meeting his girlfriend of three years at a Meet-up event and now working as a team to put together further Meet-up events. Ditch the profile picture and private messages, and make your own personal connections with Meet-up.
Dani Frank is a fashion, travel and culture enthusiast and writer living in Easton, Connecticut. A recent graduate of Hofstra University, she is most happy when traversing the East Coast and beyond and documenting it all for curious readers. Read her further work at http://offmanhattan.com/author/danielle-frank/