Thursday, December 31, 2020

Fortress Party 2017 Retrospective, Part 8 - Jurassic Top of the Park

In recent years, we have tried to include a little local Ann Arbor interest, with rooms based on the Ann Arbor Street Fair, or the deer cull. The Ann Arbor Summer Festival used to be called Top of he Park, so Jurassic Top of the Park made perfect sense for our live entertainment venue.

There were posters for the bands that had headlined the nights leading up to Fortress Party, including Steg Party, Nervous Rex, Prius-Storic, The Def Goldblums, Hot Mesozoic, Emily Bronto, Ivan the Ptero-ble, and Godzilla Ice

The bands that played that night included Napoleon Dino-Mite, The TrieraPops, The Lounge Lizard, Jurassic Park and Bark, LGBT-Rex, The Veloci-Rapper, Jurassic Times Call for Jurassic Measures, The Reptilianaires, and the Paleontolerables. 

Some random dinosaur themed quips were taped up around the room:
"Your mom is so stupid she bought meteor insurance."
"Fossil fuels: you're welcome."
"Sometimes when someone says something mean to mer, I fell like I'm only 20 feet tall."

Most of the performers wore a brown or black inflatable T-Rex costume. It turns out it's not easy to play guitar or piano with tiny arms, but a ukulele is perfect.

Some of the performers made their own dinosaur costumes.

We had a tap-dancing T-rex. 

The view from the stage. It was crowded, but most of them seem fairly non-plussed. 

Fortress Party 2017 Retrospective, Part 7B - The Totally Legitimate Backstory of Box Party

A Tale of Two Forts


Visionaries. In 1995, childhood friends Zach London and Dave Fernandes took a tour a haunted corn maze in Warwick, Rhode Island. They knew they had found something special, but it wasn’t special enough. The scratchy cornstalks and unwanted spookiness detracted from an otherwise meaningful experience.


On the way back to their car, the two of them stopped in front of a blanket that the farmer had hung out to dry. At the exact same moment, they came up with the idea for Fortress Party. 

Figure 1. Zach (left) and Dave (right) simultaneously coming up with the idea for
Fortress Party while standing in front of an incidental blanket.

That week, they both dropped out of charm school and registered the name “Fortress Party” with the Rhode Island comptroller’s office. They took out a small business loan and bought a house together. A house with matching workshops.

Figure 2. Best friends forever! Not likely.

Artistic differences. Zach felt that a light, durable material such as bedsheets would make the ideal building blocks for the fortress. Dave became convinced that a true fortress needed to be built up from the ground, rather than down from the ceiling. He insisted that cardboard boxes were the fortress substrate of choice. 

The business relationship deteriorated into name-calling and atomic noogies.  The two have not spoken since. Yet, they have continued to live in the same house. 

Zach married Lauren, who helped him retain the legal rights to the Fortress Party name. They hired the top linen architects to design the world’s greatest sheet maze, and invited everyone they knew. Everyone except Dave.

Figure 3. Fortress Party 1995. Everyone other than Dave was there.

Bitter but undeterred, Dave retreated to his workshop for a whole year. When he finally emerged, BOX PARTY was born.


For 22 years, it has been held on the same night as Fortress Party, in Dave’s half of the house. Each year, the rivals switch off who gets to use the front door, so that the two labyrinths never overlap. That is, until this week, when a Fortress Party staff member accidentally hung sheets in this uncharted hallway… 


Fortress Party 2017 Retrospective, Part 7A - Box Party


The Box Party room was made entirely out of cardboard, rather than sheets. We had been toying with this idea for years, but it was finally made possible by two factors. 1. We had just purchased a new mattress and box spring by mail, which came in the largest boxes I had ever seen. 2. Some friendly new neighbors bought the house across across the street, and had dozens of leftover boxes from their move. 

Cardboard is much heavier than sheets, so clothesline wasn't enough to support the ceiling; we also had to support it from below with cardboard columns.

The bar was stacked with juice boxes and a variety of boxed wines.

Which proved too much for some guests to handle.

Cardboard-headed people appeared in all the family pictures on the wall. 

There was a Box Party sign in sheet, which was a sheet of cardboard.

But guests were also encouraged to write all over the walls with Sharpies.

Instead of stickers with Fort puns, Box Party had cardboard badges with box puns.

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Fortress Party 2017 Retrospective, Part 6 - Scout's Honor

We had been looking for ways to get people to move around the fort and interact with more people. This culminated in Scout's Honor, the most immersive Fortress Party social experience to date. 

The instructions were straightforward, but complicated enough that it scared away some of the more casual fortress goers.

The goal was to collect as many Boy Scout badges as possible over the course of the evening. 

Guests would pick the badge they wanted to try to get and scan the appropriate QR code. 

Their phone would then direct them to find a guest (or party host) with a specific hat color and interact with that person in some way. 

Each of the colored hats had a QR code, as well. If a guest performed the directive and scanned the appropriate hat, their phone would give them you two more missions, for a total of three. Upon completion of the third mission, the guest would be directed back to the Scout's Honor room to collect the badge and scan a new code to start working on a new one.  

The badges were made out of laminated paper with sticky foam on the back, so they could easily be attached to the scout's uniform. 

Brown and green sashes were available for guests to showcase their badges. 

The web app would also keep track of which badges had been completed. These black-and-white images would become colorful once the owner of the phone successfully completed the missions for beer pong, sinking a canoe, or getting into a skiing accident. 

This authority figure oversaw the other activity in this room...

...The Pinewood Derby.

Most of these were our actual Pinewood Derby cars. Except the one on the right made out of a giant clothespin. 

Here is the view from the top of the track. We borrowed this from the local troupe, and did our best to return it unscathed. 

 The badge game was most popular with Scarlett's ambitious friends, one of whom got all 26 badges.

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Fortress Party 2017 Retrospective, part 5 - Down the Rabbit Hole


Down the Rabbit Hole took up more than half of the basement, with four different Alice In Wonderland-themed areas.

The corridor into the room was flanked by mirrors at 45 degree angles. 

Messages on the opposite wall could only read when from certain angles. 

The light up dance floor was back, and this time, Alice herself was the DJ, flanked by card soldier bouncers.

 I downloaded this video of the mischievous Cheshire Cat having a one-way conversation from some theater company's website. (I have not been able to find it again to give proper attribution.This was projected on a wall outside of the caterpillar room, but the projector was on a table behind a wall, and somebody bumped into it and knocked it over before 9 pm without me noticing, so most of the guests never saw this. 

There was a stoned caterpillar on a toadstool. The mushroom cap was made from an upside down kiddie pool. 

A smoke machine beneath the mushroom completed the hookah effect. 

The last room was the Mad Tea Party, filled with giant chess pieces borrowed from the library.

Your brain will automatically assume that these hand-drawn "eat me" and "drink me" signs were slightly larger than a playing card, but the cards were almost 2 feet tall. Look at the size of the clothespins for reference.