417 is the number of names that make up that “X”. THAT is the number of names that make up BeerFest’s ten years.
In the spring of 2009, that number was two… TWO.
Two of us were sitting around, bullshitting, gassing beers and watching BeerFest on Comedy Central (shoutout Hos & Hazelwood… & maybe even Hugh Lowery).
After watching the movie and getting #inspired, a few short weeks went by and we threw the first one, essentially a themed “BeerFest” party, with zero expectations of what it could potentially grow into… Honestly, at the time, we probably just wanted another excuse to drink.
That day, the number grew from two to 32.
When we did it again the following year, after word had gotten out that it was fun the previous year, so growing it to 68* total competitors (some returning but a ton of new faces) wasn’t that surprising… But once it grew that large that quickly, we thought maybe we had done something big.
Fast forward another year to 2011, year number three of our tournament (and the year we moved into a house with a much, MUCH better layout for this event), we doubled its size again – from 32 people, to 68 people, to 124** competitors in three years.
The number kept growing… Some faces graduating out of school, moving on to
bigger & better lamer things, but tons of new faces joined the party.
This was about when I realized we had a bona fide production on our hands. I remember this was the first year I noticed people were traveling from other schools to come to see what this was all about – Penn State, Cornell, West Virginia… People just out of school were coming just to see what it was they were seeing pictures of and hearing about (yes, I was proud of this sucker and talked about it a lot) and re-live their glory days.
With the explosion of the number of teams also came a ridiculous need for organization. I knew a tournament of 32 teams needed more than just me and a few others to run smoothly. We needed help and this is where people who wanted to come, but didn’t want to play necessarily came in clutch…
“You man the music.”
“You can be a ref.”
“You can pump the kegs.”
“You can be a cage dancer.“***
“You can deal with Bocephus.“****
“You wear this beer wench costume and stand near me during my speech to make this tournament feel more legit.”
“You put these “Make BeerFest Great Again” hats on to announce we’re back.”
“You be security and make sure no one is going in people’s rooms and robbing them.”
You might laugh, but all these things helped a shit ton. I needed every little task off my plate and even something as small as playing the music, or pumping the kegs, or being “security” was not stuff I wanted to pay attention to.
And then came technology…
A tournament of 128 people which used to be tracked by basically my brain and a chalkboard, now was being organized by our laptops… The refs would go over to fill up their pitchers to get the next game playing, tell the DJ (who’s running the computer) who won what game, the DJ updates the Excel sheet and the screens all update.
Oh, did I forget to mention the TV screens? That’s right… Goodbye chalkboards, hello 50″ TV screens to really flex on everyone how excessive we can get running this beer drinking tourney!!
BeerFests IV through VIII in Syracuse all flew by. At some points it was like clockwork. I knew what I had to do, how to do it, where to go to get them done, and each year just tweak something small to make it a little bit different, and hopefully a little bit better.
And throughout all those years, BeerFests IV through IX, new faces were always coming and yes, some faces were moving on to other things.
Last year, the tournament got moved to NJ, and what happened? Some old faces returned, and new faces arrived. Old faces who know how the tournament is run, they bring the energy the only way they know how, and new faces get to experience BeerFest and can take part as a returnee the following year.
That’s when we hit 417.
This year will be the last one. The actual last one. The last BeerFest I’ll throw and honestly, I’m pretty ready for that to happen.
A couple years ago I thought I had ended it but apparently I had some unfinished business… I thought maybe I had to prove I could move the party (three and a half hours from where it was), and still throw it just as well. I feel like did.
This year, the logic of ending it here for a while was to hit a milestone – ten (TEN!) years. “Ya gotta end it on a round number!” was my party line.
But truthfully, “ten” versus “nine” or even “seven” meant nothing. At the end of the day, those numbers would be fairly meaningless.
But when I put that list together, of the 417 different names of everyone involved (and I know for a fact I missed some – I’m sorry!), it was honestly overwhelming. On some level 417 different people got to take part in a party that 416 other people also took part in, spanning ten years.
We built an event little by little, brick by brick, keg by keg, from 2, to 32, into 417.
That number alone is why I’m ending it. It has been an awesome ride and honestly it introduced me to a lot of awesome people, some who I’ll be friends with the rest of my life.
But knowing that 416 other people ALSO had that chance to meet all those other people, all because those original 2 people decided to throw this party… THAT. That is fucking awesome.
BeerFest ends on April 13th, but I’m stoked that for the rest of my life, I have 416 people floating out there, that if – and when – I run into you at a bar… We’re going to reminisce on this tournament, because there are countless stories from these ten years that you know, that I don’t know (or can’t remember), and I guarantee I’m gonna laugh about em.
Thanks to everyone for helping us get to a number that crazy… You da real MVP’s.
* = 68 may not sound right to you mathematically inclined people out there, but it was actually 17 teams of 4 each that year, and we had ONE do-or-die play in game in order to get it to our final number of 16… Hilariously, during the play-in round, a kid threw up and it was before the tournament even started. Absolutely hysterical in hindsight.
** = Again, you mathematically inclined people may be thinking, “Hey, that’s not doubling!!” and you’d be correct. We ONLY had 31 teams, so – at complete random – we selected one team to get a First Round Bye (which in hindsight could have been given to ourselves…. but we were men of the people) and it went to Tim Forbes – who YEARS LATER in 2017 sang the National Anthem live and it was maybe the most American moment in BeerFest history.
*** = This sentence absolutely was said and a deal agreed on. However, I never built the cage, and the person who agreed to be a cage dancer never attended. But those words did come out of my mouth.
**** = I am laughing thinking about this… But Bocephus was my bluetick coonhound who was our “frat dog” and also the biggest hell hound on the planet. So yes, I needed someone actually dedicated to deal with him – JUST HIM – all day. He sucked a lot but I loved him.