The West Palm Beach Party Aftermath
By Matthew Yette
July 14, 2008
Running a website with a large, populated discussion board can be a mixed experience. With so many divergent opinions and different personalities, it can be frustrating from a moderation point of view to keep everything on an even keel. Sure, personal relationships can and do form by way of the boards, and countless friendships have been forged as a result. For many others, the site represents a collection of people, obscured by their usernames, their posts, and whatever general persona that each member chooses to exhibit. As one of the owners of this site, I will admit that it is very easy to become jaded by the constant flow of ideas and opinions, both positive and negative. We have been at this for over six years; my feelings and opinions were pretty much set. At least, I thought they were. How wrong I was.
I'm going to put it right out there. This was quite possibly the best weekend of my life. When Jake, Joe and I were planning the parties, we honestly didn't know what to expect. The attendance roll-call said one thing, but as with everything, the proof is in the pudding. Would anybody show up? What if the weather is bad? Will the entertainment fit well with the atmosphere? There were countless questions we asked ourselves. We knew the parties had the potential to be amazing. We all had our daydream moments where we thought about the best-case scenario and how it would all go if we lived in a perfect world. In reality, we were all worried about making sure everyone enjoyed themselves. It might sound cliche, but here is the truth: the parties totally blew away even my greatest hopes. I can use all kinds of terms to describe it, but the truth of the matter is, words don't do it justice. This was the kind of event that, once it's over and you're home, you're instantly sad, longing to go back and do it again, right now. It was the kind of event that can completely change your outlook on things, and it certainly did for me. The feelings of camaraderie, of friendship, and of the overall good vibe of all of us being there for the band and for each other was a life-changing event, for me at least, and I gather that that holds true for at least a few more of you as well.
From the moment the first party kicked off Friday night, we all felt that there was something special in the air. Ron Rotondo was doing a solo acoustic set at the head of the room, and the atmosphere his performance created couldn't have set the stage any better for the party. We had a bunch of prizes to give away, and we did our best to have a sign-in sheet near the door for Ants to "check in." Rumpus Media was kind enough to donate 300 "Eat Drink and Be Merry" bracelets, and every Ant who signed in was given one. We gave away five Warehouse memberships each night, as well as two sets of the complete Live Trax discography. On Saturday night, we gave away a Steve Keene painting as the grand prize. Jake's wife Tracy was kind enough to play "Official Photographer" for the weekend and got some amazing pictures, which we're excited to share with you. We had free food both nights, which was depleted pretty rapidly, but the popcorn was thankfully unlimited. While each night's party got going around midnight, and the official last call was 2AM, there were Ants hanging around until well past 3AM both nights. All in all, over 300 Ants attended the parties, and from talking to many of them, it appeared that everybody had the time of their lives.
If future party plans depended on how this weekend went, worry no more. There will be an encore. We are already kicking around ideas on where and when. The PGA National Resort was an absolutely perfect venue for the party, and in my mind, is definitely the front-runner for next year's gig, but at this stage, rest assured that this is not a one-and-done.
I came away from the parties with such a powerful feeling of friendship. Every time I think about what I want to say to everyone who was there, one thing comes to mind: Thank you. I can't even count how many times I was thanked for everything we've done on the site, but you all are the ones who deserve the thanks. You make this site. Your passion, your love, your generosity. Your willingness to travel across the country to form these bonds that we've developed. Your willingness to open up your lives and your hearts for so many people whom would otherwise be deemed perfect strangers. As I sit here, I find myself actually missing everyone that I just met not 48 hours ago. It was, without a doubt, a life-changing experience. I will not be taking off my bracelet - it is a constant reminder of that bond we all share, and never has anything felt so good. To everyone who came to the parties: I will never be able to thank you enough. You have given me a new outlook on community. You are, without a doubt, the best of what's around.
The views and comments expressed in this article do not necessarily represent those of antsmarching.org.