Grown-Up Club Is an Offbeat Way for Minnesotans to Escape Boredom and Routine

If there’s one thing that’s true about being an adult, it’s that, well, sometimes it’s the worst.

Paying bills, working 40-plus hours a week, going to doctor for regular checkups, taking medications, becoming mortal enemies with alarm clocks, going to bed at 9:30 p.m. instead of 2:00 a.m. . . . it’s really kind of a bummer to be an adult sometimes.

Okay, maybe it’s not all that bad. Some of those things are actually kind of nice. Also, I love to be able to walk into a bar and drink four beers legally, then go to a midnight showing at the Uptown Theatre and not have to worry about eating a whole bag of popcorn and a movie-theater sized box of candy because I finally have health insurance, and then get to my apartment late at night without having anyone yell at me. Yes, this is a very specific scenario, but these are some of the awesome things about being an adult (to me at least). Still, sometimes we can get bogged down by work, bills, paying off debt, and all the other obligations that come with being a grown up. It’s easy to forget that there is still a childlike wonder in all of us, one that can never disappear as long as we are still breathing.

This is where Grown-Up Club comes in. The club, founded in 2013, organizes eccentric, participatory events designed to bring together both introverted and extroverted adults. These gatherings also have the tendency to splice a whole bunch of crazy fun back into the life of a grown-up. Events have ranged from the group’s annual summer Recess Games day to a Sexy Underwear Craft Night and an interesting take on a Singles Exchange. All of these activities seem to bring together the participants over the shared experience and feelings that sometimes being an adult sucks, and sometimes it’s a truly wonderful thing to just let go of everything for a night (see: become a kid again).

A photograph of the three organizers of Grown-Up Club

From left to right, Regan Smith, Taylor Baldry, and Tim Lovett, the organizers of Grown-Up Club. Photo courtesy of Sarah Ascanio

I sat down with the three current organizers of Grown-Up Club—Taylor Baldry, Tim Lovett, and Regan Smith—at the place where it all started: Common Roots Cafe, a cozy, brightly lit coffee shop on Lyndale Avenue. After a Surly Furious, 35 minutes of information, plenty of tangents, a plethora of laughs, and several on-the-spot ideas that I won’t spoil here I hope to God come into fruition, I got a good understanding of what the club is all about and why it’s important for all of us adults right now.

Back in 2013, Grown-Up Club started with the clang of a gong. Literally. Taylor and fellow founder Victoria Nohl, who has since left the group, wanted to try something different.

“We just had an idea for an event where people do their own stand-up comedy routine, and then they drop it in a fish bowl, and then someone else draws it randomly and then they have to perform it,” Taylor said. They hyped up the event, and on the night of, the back room of Common Roots Cafe was packed. “It was a big hit—it was a lot of fun.”

And from there it spiraled insanely, ridiculously, and beautifully out of control. The next event was a “High and Tell,” which involved showing off something that you made while you were high. But the meaning of “high” wasn’t limited to the drug sense: “The definition is very loose, like someone made something when they were in a tree,” Taylor said. These kinds of slightly crazy activities seemed to be popular with people; many of the events had pretty large showings. The act of getting outside of your normal habits and doing something ridiculous sounded to me like an ideal way to break that normal, day-to-day routine, which can sometimes become cumbersome and tiring.

Participants of the Casual Science Fair event proudly display their studies on colorful poster boards.

A view of Grown-Up Club’s Casual Science Fair event, held last spring. Photo courtesy of Sarah Ascanio

The popularity of Grown-Up Club was evident when a young woman sitting a few tables over during our interview came up and said, “I knew it! Are you Grown-Up Club?” It was a welcome interruption, seeing one of the club’s participants smiling and talking excitedly with the three organizers. I was curious, though, about how the events themselves came to be. Regan, who handles most of the writing for the group, expanded on this for me.

“I think we all have events that . . . they are the ones that we just think of when we’re just kind of joking around,” she said. “We have all these weird ideas kind of percolating. And then we evaluate them by some criteria.” These criteria, she explained, followed a loose set of guidelines. They mainly involved questions like, “Are the events group inclusive, so that everyone can join in?” and “Is it something that they’ve seen before?” Taylor piped in: “Is it welcoming? Does it build some sort of community? Can people go there and meet other people? And even if you’re kind of shy, is there something for you to do if you’re somewhat reserved?”

It seems that there is a real emphasis on making everyone feel included. Even on their website it says, “Grown-Up Club is designed to help both the socially gifted and the socially inept connect with each other over absurd shared experiences.” This philosophy is the reason I think Grown-Up Club has grown so popular: it not only brings people together, but also lets them experience new things and come closer to one another, even if they aren’t the type who is normally successful in large gatherings of people.

Tim, who handles the legal side of things with Grown-Up Club, related to me why he thinks that these events bring people together so well: “When you create a shared medium that is inherently uncomfortable, people have that to share with each other . . . it’s like, ‘This is weird for everyone, so we can bond through it.’”

And the experiences do seem like they’d be weird for everyone—but in the best possible way. I found myself laughing just while perusing through the events section of their website, reading about all the exciting, imaginative activities that they have been holding for the past three or so years.

A view from the awards ceremony of Grown-Up Club's Casual Science Fair Event.

The awards ceremony at the Casual Science Fair, where the winner was crowned “President of Science.” Photo courtesy of Sarah Ascanio

Regan also touched on another part of why Grown-Up Club has grown to what it is now.

“There’s kind of this nostalgia aspect,” she said. “I think a lot of people really connect with and hook onto this feeling of doing some things that you did when you were younger. And the idea of doing that when you’re an adult is really appealing to a lot of people.”

Grown-Up Club seems to live with these sort of attitudes—that there is still a child inside of us, and it’s okay to let them out every now and again, especially during this divided period that we are living in. With everything that’s going on in the streets, in politics, and on TV, it can be easy to forget who we are and where we came from. It can be easy to forget that innocence, laughter, ridiculous activities, and bonding with strangers still exist. Further, it can be difficult to distinguish ourselves from our daily routines.

“One of the hardest things about being an adult or a grown up is that, so often you are defined by your profession, or your kids, or where you went to college, and [Grown-Up Club] allows you a chance to define yourself as you wish to be defined,” Tim said.

At the end of the day, Grown-Up Club just wants you to be you. The events allow your inner artist, or your inner child, or your inner sexy underwear maker out for the night and let you break out of being someone defined by your daily adult life. If any of this sounds interesting, keep an eye on the Grown-Up Club website, as the group has many upcoming events already planned—including a Singles Exchange in February and Capture the Flag this summer. And after hearing some of the ideas tossed around during our interview, I have a feeling there are going to be many other crazy, ridiculous, and awesome things coming your way.

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