For years, Gathering participants have been unified and identified by a tide of color – the culprit? Backpacks. In 2004, a moving sea of orange backpacks flooded the convention center and I-Drive and the item quickly became the identifying mark of Gathering participants for the City of Orlando.
This year, it will be happening all over again.
On Wednesday, boxes and boxes of separately packaged Bibles, Gathering guidebooks, and backpacks sat unopened, waiting to be torn open by eager volunteers.
In a room in the North/South complex of the Orange County Convention Center, thousands of packs were assembled by a dedicated crew of 80-100 volunteers who worked in stations of about 15 people throughout the room stuffing the packs and prepping them for use.
Some volunteers tore open boxes, others took bags out of plastic wrap, another group cleared the boxes and trash, while yet another group flung backpacks across the packing room onto the growing mountain of kahki, where they sat waiting to be picked up by youth groups arriving at registration on Friday and Saturday.
“[The backpacks] were packed with love,” said volunteer Nikki Becker. “Without all of the volunteers, the process would not have been as enjoyable.” And now that they are packed, planners wait expectantly for kids and adults to flood into the OCCC and whisk them away, carrying the trademark item of the Gathering that unites the masses as one.