YAL DC Weekend 2007 Wrap-Up
December 6, 2007
While we realize that this DC YAL Weekend 2007 Wrap-Up is almost a month old, these write-ups aren’t for the crowd who was there, or those from America’s heartland living vicariously through the magic of over 100 hi-res pictures, but for next year’s crowd of YAL hopefuls who need to convince their friends to come to DC and split a hotel room with them for their very first YAL Weekend. (Look for this review to re-air sometime in September/October, 2008)
Last month’s DC YAL Weekend was a rousing success based on a commitment to returning to the basic principles of what a YAL event should be, while not being afraid to try new ideas and venues. For the first time in as long as we could remember, the event wasn’t all about the hotel itself, allowing not only some more flexibility in what YAL DC Weekend had to offer, particularly during Saturday night’s main event, but also increasing attendance at all the weekend’s events as a whole.
Despite the return of the event to Washington, DC from what was perceived to be the outskirts of the Virginia suburbs last year in Arlington, the organizers weren’t necessarily bound to packing everyone into the same hotel ballroom on consecutive nights. While both Thursday night’s Happy Hour were at the President's Sports Bar at the Renaissance Washington, DC Hotel, the Dance on Saturday Night was held at St. Katherine in Falls Church, VA. The Renaissance staff was very accommodating in providing the bar, particularly the private area for Saturday afternoon’s Happy Hour featuring karaoke, even though we didn’t provide them any food or drink minimums through catering or guaranteed bar sales. Both events at the hotel bar were actually under-attended as compared to the same night/event last year in Arlington. This was particularly disappointing for the Saturday afternoon happy hour given the addition of karaoke to the line-up. While technical difficulties led to a scrapping of Greek songs for the event, several attendees bravely put themselves out there by singing karaoke standards, sometimes in a not so standard way. Still the organizers saw and continue to see great potential in karaoke as one of the ultimate ice breakers at any YAL Event.
The Greek Night on Friday was held at RnR Bar & Lounge, formerly known as Coyote Ugly, right behind the Verizon Center. The first of the two floors reserved for the YAL was packed by 11:00 leaving the second floor of the club for the late arriving mostly older YAL crowd. The entire third floor became a dance floor with YAL DC Weekend mainstays DJs C n D from Detroit spinning.
For the first time in several years, the Dance on Saturday Night was actually the highlight of the weekend. The choice to move it to St. Katherine’s from an otherwise sterile hotel ballroom setting allowed for better atmosphere, better food, a larger dance floor, and a longer party, at a significantly lower price. (We often forget that the proceeds of the weekend do go to charity.) St. Katherine’s is one of the few church facilities that when done up right with the proper lighting can pass for something other than a church hall. Having such a large space prevented the usual YAL Weekend cocktail party atmosphere that happens when the bars and the food are in the lobby and the dance floor and music is inside. The first hour and a half of the event was spent with the crowd actually sitting down and eating. The Mom @ DCGreeks.com, who was unwillingly drafted into catering the event with another mother of one of the Committee Members, said that she had never seen so many full plates at the end of a buffet line, with requests to just “throw some spanokopita on top” of an otherwise healthy portion of food.
As for the music on Saturday Night, Zephyros pulled out all the stops. The organizers knew that they were in for something unprecedented when Zephyros called late in the afternoon to complain the stage setup was too small; not knowing that they actually brought 7 band members including a drummer for the first time in seemingly two decades. A surprise appearance by DJ Manolis to cover band breaks meant that the dancing continued until 3:00 A.M.
The sign of a great YAL event isn’t so much how things are when things are going right, but rather what happens when things don’t. We must always remember that YAL events are essentially run by volunteers, who while often consummate professionals in their day jobs, are not event planners. Still when these volunteers are able to deal with crises professionally, it’s worth mentioning. Almost everyone who attended Saturday night’s dance learned of the issues surrounding the shuttle buses from the hotel. While the organizers couldn’t give those who waited up to 90 minutes for a bus that never materialized that hour and a half of their lives back, they went out of their way to discount the tickets for those who were buying at the door and to make sure that everyone got a free drink ticket on the way in. As the organizers realized that you’re only as good as your last YAL weekend, leaving some money on the table was well worth it if it ensured that everyone who wanted to come to the dance was able to and that no one left unhappy. The sight of a crowded dance floor come 3:00 AM (after extending the party another hour to compensate for the bus fiasco) was a decent sign that everyone had gotten over their earlier issues regarding the transportation and had settled in to having a good time.
We failed to make it to Sunday church service and brunch at St. Sophia as we were up until 5:30 A.M. shutting down St. Katherine, but we heard there was a good turnout and that the brunch was nice. Sunday night’s Greek Night at Ultrabar was surprisingly well attended as over 100 out-of-towners decided to stay through until Monday morning. The locals who normally attend otherwise packed Greek Nights at Ultrabar enjoyed the change of pace and venue as the club was able to offer the fourth floor VIP area for the Greek Night. We’d like to thank Jimmy Marmaras and the folks at Ultrabar for letting the YAL host its event there and for the generous $400 donation made at the end of the night.
Overall it was a classy weekend that offered something for YALers of all ages. YAL DC Weekend manages to attract newer, younger, first-time attendees every year, without alienating its core base of weekend veterans.