How many parties host movie goers, filmmakers, volunteers, producers and podcasters all at once? None that I could think of until I went to last night’s opening night party for the Traverse City Film Festival.
The party was hosted outdoors on a bordered off chunk in front of the State Theatre. It was chilly last night, and something about walking around in full length pants and sleeves, the excitement of the party and the sky dimming made me feel like I was going to a my high school homecoming bonfire. The party is bookended by energetic live bands, there was any kind of food you could possibly want and, of course, booze and lots of it.
On one end of the street were tents set up with a wide variety of food, including a tent full of arcade games and movie snacks. Across was seating and entertainment like a gambling tables, an impressive young woman on stilts and a man making balloon flowers.
My favorite aspect of the outdoor celebration was the people. Everyone was so genuinely excited and happy to be there. Everyone involved in the festival was intermingling like old friends, and there were plenty of old friends running into each other. Finding and making friends seems to be a familiar pattern with the film festival, and many attendees agreed.
“I will tell you what I love about the festival,” sponsor Diana Milock said. “It’s the best week in Traverse City. It is more fun and more positive energy and the most interesting people and if you don’t have any friends just stand in line for a couple of movies and you’ll have a whole new group of friends. I’ve met some of my best friends standing in line.”
Some of the volunteers work as drivers, people in town for TCFF need to get around to things like the opening night party and having volunteers be able to shuttle out-of-towners around takes off a lot of stress for our visitors. Craig Ardery is a volunteer driver and his sentiments about TCFF being the best week in Traverse City echoes Diana’s about the festival.
“This marks the beginning of the best week of the summer,” Craig said.
Craig and his nephew, also a driver, were very welcoming and encouraged me to wait for his wife to return to the cocktail table we were at. Karen Ardery manages all the drivers and she enjoys being able to make TCFF enjoyable for as many people as she can.
“I just really like what I do. I manage all my drivers and we get to take care of the guests and greet them and make sure they get to their screenings on time. It’s a lot of fun.”
It is a lot of fun. The party was a great people watching event. People were dressed stylishly in varying ways, with a common thread of men dressed like a mixture of all the liberal arts professors I had a crush on in college. I also am handed a balloon rose and had the rare pleasure of speaking with a woman taller than me, Shirley Cinema. Shirley was on 3 foot stilts and donned a black white and red, diamond printed outfit. She looked like a Queen of Hearts from Alice and Wonderland, and her towering over me definitely made me feel like Alice. This is her second year working the festival.
“Last year I wore my two footers and this year I thought, ‘I’ll wear my three footers that’ll be more fun,’ so when people remember than I was shorter last year I just thought that was so sweet!”
The opening night party also attracted people who just wanted a fun night out. Friends Jill Kabana and Leontine Hilders only came to the party for one reason.
“The music,” Leontine said. “I heard music over there and over there,” she pointed to both ends of the party. “I liked them both, so we’re here,” she laughed.
Leontine is visiting Jill from Amsterdam. The pair haven’t seen each other in five years and just wanted a night out to catch up as girlfriends, drink some wine and people watch and what a perfect place to do it.
Locals Andy Cole and Emily Cole came to support TCFF as well as Traverse City. The couple love that the festival brings different types of people and artists to Traverse City.
“They can get a taste of Traverse City, but people in Traverse City can also get a taste of all this diversity of thought and art” Emily said.
There is definitely a lot of diversity in the films playing at TCFF this week. From sensory deprivation experiments, 80’s classic Teen Wolf, the transformative power of Bruce Springsteen music and so much more. Join in on the fun and find something you like, and if you’re worried about going alone remember that you just might make a friend standing in line.