Six months ago, I had this crazy idea that my work should stage a flash mob. I spent hours putting together the strategy, and sold it to my on-site leadership, and we submitted to a Corporate Vice President, who gave me funding.
The plan was to hold a flash mob at a ski resort. Microsoft Licensing and Microsoft Student partnered up with the Reno-Sparks Convention and Visitors Authority, Alpine Meadows Ski Resort, Moment Skis and Sentury Snowboards to create a mob that was a true community event. After six months of planning, everything was ready.
Microsoft Licensing sponsored the Take the Lake Competition at Alpine Meadows, which was planned during college spring break. We had pictured the flash mob going down on a balmy Spring day outdoors in the middle of a huge crowd watching the rail jam competition.
Mother Nature had different plans for us. She sent us a blizzard in which Alpine received 54 inches of snow over the three days of the Take The Lake competition.
Months of planning and preparation had gone into both the competition, Microsoft’s presence at the competition, as well as the flash mob. We had people and equipment that had been flown into town just for the weekend, including a team of professional videographers. We decided the show must go on.
On Thursday, the plans for our two outdoor tents were moved inside, and we moved forward with plans for the flash mob. On Friday, people started getting wind of the forecast, and my Windows Phone lit up with texts, emails, and calls from people backing out of the flash mob.
On Friday night, we had a rehearsal at the Reno-Sparks Convention Center. We had 25 dancers show up, with a large group of UNR Dance Co-op dancers, who offered to teach the dance, and representatives from dance schools from Reno all the way to South Lake Tahoe. The rehearsal went well, but we knew 25 people wouldn’t make an impressive flash mob.
We had partnered with the Alpine Meadows Ski Foundation, offering them raffle prizes for a fundraiser in exchange for 100 dancers from the Alpine Meadows Ski Teams. In the weeks leading up to the event, we had 115 people committed to the flash mob from the ski teams. The day before the flash mob, our contact at the ski teams said she didn’t think people would want to participate because of the snow. We told them that we were carrying on as planned, and still needed their help.
We had a rehearsal scheduled for 7:30am at the Alpine Meadows Lodge on Saturday, the day of the flash mob. A team of three Microsoft Licensing employees left Reno at 5:30am to drive through the blizzard to the lodge. We initially had one family of four turn up to the rehearsal.
Due to avalanche control, the road into the resort was shut down, and everyone was restricted to the lodge. We tried to recruit the people trapped in the lodge with us to the flash mob, but no one was interested. At 8am the day of the flash mob, it was looking doomed.
Our team of videographers showed up for the rehearsal in a Chevy Cavalier, not the ideal car for the weather conditions. After the rehearsal, they said they were headed back to the lodge in Tahoe City to get their equipment. At this time, roads between Alpine and Tahoe City were not an easy task for a vehicle without four wheel drive or chains.
It was an unbelievable rally as we tried to gather dancers. The head coach for the ski teams approached us and said he would have ski teams come to us to learn the dance throughout the day as they came in for shelter from the storm. Jennifer Mizzi, a MSLI Intern (and dance minor) led dance training all day in a secret room in the lodge.
People spent 3 hours on the road driving in blizzard conditions from Reno and Carson City to Alpine Meadows for this event. The entire day, we tried to see if the weather would ease up for us to execute the flash mob outside at the rail jam, but it never did. All day, we worried if the videographer would make it back in time for the flash mob. Thankfully, they did.
In an effort to show the weather conditions on the video, we had the UNR dancers go outside, and we signaled them when to enter the lodge dancing. One of the dancers was put in charge of the Reno Tahoe Big Horn mascot, RT. We had the Windows mascot, Buddy, inside the lodge fending off the kids that were swarming him before the flash mob began.
At 4pm, the flash mob was scheduled to start, but the videographer was getting his team of 12 in place still. We fretted over scantily clad dancers in 80s apparel shivering in the hurricane force winds and blinding snow. At 4:10, everyone was ready, and the music was pumped into the lodge, while people planted all throughout the lodge and the dancers streaming into the lodge all got up and started dancing to the Microsoft song “I’m a PC for Life.”
Unfortunately, RT the Bighorn was left out in the storm, and only realized she had been left when she was the only person left outside the lodge, and found her way inside with limited visibility from the head to join in the festivities.
We ended up having around 125 people participating in the flash mob. During the chorus, all of the participants shouted “I’m a PC for Life”, which echoed off of the high ceilings of the lodge. Considering mere hours before we had feared the flash mob would consist of 10 people, it was truly an amazing feat.
This flash mob was an entire community coming together. We had children, dancers, ski team members, coaches and parents, employees and their families and friends. Our mission was to promote local products and the Reno Tahoe area. We did that in one of the most powerful storms of the year, pooling resources and making new friends.
Thank you to everyone for braving the storm and making this happen.