My first Gathering of the Juggalos taught me many things: Juggalos are way friendlier than the world gives them credit for, sometimes bottles of Faygo have LSD in them, and juggalo love stories are wild and inspiring.
That last bit I found out by interviewing juggalo couples at the Gathering, which returned to Legend Valley in Ohio this year for four days of debauchery, including a fuckton of fireworks, two Insane Clown Posse performances, and a now-legendary public ass-eating.
Here are the most inspiring whirlwind juggalo romances I heard about:
Dani and Chris, together for seven years
When they met, Dani had another boyfriend: Chris “scooped it,” according to her. “I walked in, he was eating pepperoni pizza, and I thought he was the cutest thing ever,” Dani says. She says she fell in love with ICP as she was falling in love with Chris. They’ve been to seven Gatherings together.
“Our first Gathering was probably the most special Gathering you could ever have,” Chris says. “We still hang out with our friends from our first Gathering to this day.” Chris, whose stage name is Freak Show, is a Juggalo Championship Wrestling (JCW) wrestler.
“It was really cool watching someone you love so much fall in love with something that’s so important to you—it just made me love her more, if that’s even possible,” Chris says. “Because it wasn’t even me trying to impress him; I genuinely got into it,” Dani says.
Dani, a singer, has been a huge supporter of Chris’s wrestling career. It was during his first Gathering with her that he discovered the wrestling school he wanted to go to. But before he joined the school, two months after their first Gathering, he was shot in the stomach during a robbery.
“I was in the hospital and told Dani that I wanted to find something I was passionate about,” Chris says. That was the moment he decided on his goal to become a JCW wrestler.
After four years of tryouts, Chris got the call offering him a spot as a JCW wrestler.
“Everything I’d done for four years, every practice she drove me to (I don’t have a license), all the time she sacrificed… She was at every show, she does my mohawk, she helps with my paint, she does everything,” Chris says. “She has been nothing but my total support so that I can live my dream.”
Harley and Hunter, newly engaged, together for almost a year
Harley and Hunter got engaged this Gathering during ICP’s performance of Hell’s Pit. They planned their engagement together months in advance. They’ve known each other since their early teens; Hunter is 18 now, and Harley is 19. They’re from small-town Texas, met through friends online, and have a dog and six cats together.
“We started making our way through the crowd… The first time we tried to go on the stage when Faygo Armageddon started, we got shoved to the side,” Harley says. “He got down on his knee and did it there, then we noticed they were letting people up there again.”
“I was like, ‘Fuck that shit,’” Hunter says. They ran up to the gate, Hunter yelled to the security guard, and they re-did the engagement on the stage. “Everyone was going crazy,” Harley says.
Elizabeth and DJ, together for 11 months
Elizabeth and DJ met through mutual juggalo friends. They hung out for the first time when Elizabeth needed help with something. “It was a random meetup… A homie needed help, so I was like, let’s go help a homie out,” DJ says. “Ever since then, we’ve been kickin’ it, and it turned into something else.”
“We’re two peas in a pod; we’re a lot alike, but at the same time we’re a lot different,” Elizabeth says. Both Elizabeth and DJ said that loyalty is very important to them.
“Our motto is: ‘We’ll figure it out,’” DJ says.
Mackey and Lindsey, together for over two months
This was Mackey’s eighth Gathering and Lindsey’s first—and their first as a couple. “It’s amazing… He’s showing me so much. I’ve been down, I’ve been part of the family for ten years, maybe longer,” Lindsey says, “But being here, surrounded by all these people and this love, then having him—it’s just magical, it really is.”
Lindsey and Mackey are from Oklahoma and met on an 18+ “anything goes” Juggalo community group chat on Facebook messenger. “We’re madly in love,” Mackey says. “I basically hit her up and asked her if she wanted to come out and play, and she said that she’s always down to play. So we set up a date.” They met up for some “adult fun,” Mackey explains.
“We met up, and it was basically love at first sight, honestly. I don’t care if people believe that shit or not; it’s true,” Mackey says. “It really was,” Lindsey responds.
Micron and Deanna, together for almost two years
Deanna and Micron are both musicians and Christians. They met over 20 years ago when Deanna was a stripper. “Then we lost track of each other for years—he always remembered me,” Deanna says. “We locked in and immediately had this connection,” Micron explains.
“He likes the little devil in me… It’s the dark side of the light, man,” Deanna says. “Something really brought us together, and it was really meant to be,” Micron says.
Miranda and Kyle, together for over a year
“I was at home one day, and friend of mine was hanging out with her. They were on shrooms and exploring the woods near my house,” Kyle says. “He called me up and said they didn’t have anything to drink. So they walked on down, and walked down to my house. I looked in my yard, and there she was.”
“I felt him before he was even there,” Miranda says.
Cody and Sierra, together for almost a year
This was Cody and Sierra’s first Gathering together, but they’ve been into ICP since they were kids. They met at another music festival. “I was just getting out of a relationship… I was just mingling around, and I was hanging out with this chick,” Cody explains. Sierra then walked up out of nowhere and asked Cody, “Do you have a blunt, possibly?”
“I was like, ‘Matter of fact, I do,’” Cody says. “I got up and walked with her, and we never left each other since.”
“We basically moved in with each other right after that,” Sierra says. After the festival, Cody went back with Sierra to Kentucky, helped her pack, and she moved to Cleveland with him.
Michalea and Marshall, together for five months
Marshall and Michalea’s mutual friends set them up. They’re from Ohio, and their first date was at an Outback Steakhouse: Marshall ordered a steak, and Michalea had a salad.
“I can tell her anything… We can talk about everything; I feel like I can be open with someone,” Marshall says. “I’m so happy.”
Ben and Jess, together for two years
When I asked Jess and Ben what they love about each other, they responded simultaneously: “Everything.” This was Jess’s fifth Gathering and Ben’s first. They’re from Indiana.
Ben and Jess were both single parents when they met. “She’s the best mom ever,” Ben says. “We’ve been through a lot of bullshit and unhealthy relationships,” Jess explains. “Baby momma, baby daddy bullshit,” Ben adds.
Their first date was a local concert. “We went and smoked a bunch of weed on a rooftop,” Jess says. Ben’s best friend who took them to the concert had a serious mishap that day: He fell off a building. “He cracked his head open and was in a coma for like three weeks,” Jess says.
“It was really crazy and a great night for us, but it was a terrible night for him,” Jess says. FYI, their friend is just fine now.
Eric and Aarica, married for 13 years (together for 14)
“He pursued me—he was working at Books-A-Million, and I was one of the weird kids who hung out there on the weekend,” Aarica says of how the couple met. According to Aarica, Books-A-Million was a bookstore chain where “weird kids hung out at night.”
“I tried to hook him up with my sister… and then that didn’t work out, so we got together,” Aarica says.
One of their first dates was going to see ICP Hell’s Pit—an album the band performed at the Gathering this year.
“She’s my best friend,” Eric says. The couple has four kids together, but they don’t bring them the Gathering. "This is our vacation just the two of us each year,” Aarica says. Their anniversary is July 23, so the festival often falls on or near their special day.
Keith and Bianca, together for almost a year
Bianca and Keith are from central New Jersey. “We stay indoors unless we have something to do—we’re video game people,” Bianca explains. They like to sleep until noon, play games, eat breakfast together, and have sex on a typical day.
“We both hate the same things, which is almost everything, and it’s cool to be with someone who hates like you do,” Bianca says. Keith introduced Bianca to the juggalo community; this was her first Gathering and his ninth.
Bianca loves Pokémon and Final Fantasy games; Keith is into Bioshock and NEO. Sometimes, they’ll play games together; but usually, they just play separately while talking to each other since Biana prefers single players.
They met at a piercing shop where Keith was an apprentice. “She kidnapped me,” Keith says, laughing. “I was like, ‘Hey, you’re mine now,’” Bianca says.
Their first special night together was after talking on Xbox Live. The next day, Bianca found out her friend had died by suicide. She told Keith, and he told her to come to the shop he worked at. “We talked for many hours inside the shop, then outside the shop… That was the first night that we really spent a whole night together,” Bianca says.
Interviews have been edited for length and clarity.
This article originally appeared on VICE CA.