This was my fifth Relay For Life of Sebago Lakes Region. I have been involved with the planning and execution of this event for the last 4 years. I will only be writing my thoughts on DJing the event.
For the first time in five years, our event went through some last minute changes that made a significant impact. We normally take to the Windham High School track and we have access to their sound system and microphone for the evening. I'm able to hook my gear into the system and blast my music much like you'd hear at a football game.
This year, we were forced to move the event inside and go from a 12 hour overnight event to a 4 hour single evening event. Thunder, lightning and spot flooding warnings were what initiated the changes. For me, the biggest change was having to set up all my gear in the gym. Turns out, I can rock a gym with no problems whatsoever! Plenty of volume with plenty of power to spare. I was very pleased.
The benefits to this setup were definitely found on the microphone. When you use the wireless outside on the track, you tend to hear yourself in a delay because of the phasing speaker placement around the track. With the single, central set up we basically eliminated that which made things much easier on the speakers.
The music sounded great and it was nice to be down with the people. I felt more involved personally with the event and the participants than I've been able to in the past. I'm not ashamed to say that for the first time in five years I found myself being moved by some of the things I witnessed while on track level. When during the survivor lap, a man normally confined to a wheelchair, stood up and was assisted as he walked a lap around the gym. At one point a sweet older man asked if I could play some America because he and his wife, who was passed, used to dance to it. When I played "Sister Golden Hair," his face lit up with a smile and he proceeded to dance with his partner around the track. For at least that one song, he and his wife were together again.
Relay is always an amazing event and the fact that we were able to condense an entire night into such a small time period was no easy task, but I think ended up a big success. I can proudly say that some participants have already emailed their reviews including some positive notes about the music levels and song choices.
Obviously in the great scheme of Relay, the music isn't the most important part, but when you see how songs and artists can impact people the way they do, you remember how powerful music can be.
Incidentally, our event set a goal of $70,000 for this year and with money still coming in, we've already surpassed $65,000. Not bad. Not bad at all.
Once again I had the chance to work with a truly awesome and fun couple. The message was clear from the get-go: We're here to have fun and party all night! And that's what we did!
Now, as can be the case when planning an outdoor wedding, you're at the mercy of the weather. Passing showers had left us unsure about doing the ceremony outside on the patio and at times it seemed we would be in the clear, but then a down pour would hit. We set up our gear outside in anticipation of being outside, but ultimately the call had to be made about a half hour before the start that we would be inside on the dance floor. Murphy and his laws were in full effect as the sun shone brightly outside just as we started processing.
When I say a fun loving group, I mean it. Right from the bridal procession of the Imperial March from Star Wars, everyone knew the atmosphere would be light. There were laughs and even the groom (who was being surprised with the song choice by his bride-to-be) commented "I hope you don't regret this later!" in between laughs. I guess Bryan had joked about it months before with Liz giving an emphatic no. He certainly wasn't expecting it.
The ceremony was short and quite emotional as it was being performed by the groom's grandfather. There were tears and laughs mixed in before the pronouncement of "husband and wife."
Cocktail hour and dinner passed by as usual and we began the dancing. The anniversary dance was an amazing show as Liz and Bryan were flanked with countless couples with long marriages. A very inspiring room for sure. The longest married couples were both over 55 years and going!
The dancing was excellent with people taking their turns on the floor depending on what they liked. We mixed it up with some older disco, some 80s rock, some early 90s hip-hop and the best of today's top 40. The crowd was game for anything, which for a DJ is quite rewarding. At one point, appropriately set to I'm Too Sexy, the groomsman stripped off their tuxes and rode out the rest of the evening in tuxedo t-shirts. The bride had invited me to also participate, and who am I to say no to DJing an entire night in a tuxedo t-shirt?
The highlight of the evening for me came right near the end. The crowd looked like they'd have fun with the Grease Megamix, so I gave it shot. I had no idea what was to come. They danced and sang along through most of the song, but when it came to Summer Nights, Liz and her bridesmaids embodied Sandy and the Pink Ladies while Bryan and groomsman took on Danny and the T-Birds. They sang back and forth, playing out the iconic scene. It was one of the greatest things I've had the chance to see as a DJ.
As the night came to close, I thanked Liz, Bryan and their guests for being such and awesome crowd. So far it's been a great season for fun and dancing and I hope this momentum will continue through the remainder of the year!
Early Saturday morning, I made my way into Portland to pick up my lovely assistant for the day, Becky! We got in line quite early for the 10:45 ferry over to the island. I have to say, the most nerve-wracking thing about doing a wedding reception on Peaks Island is not being in control of the transportation. I'll admit we were probably much earlier than necessary, but for my first wedding out there, I wasn't going to risk it.
We arrived at the Inn just after 11 and waited for a while until the call was made whether the ceremony would be outside by the gazebo or inside on the dance floor. Jayson and Amanda made the call around noon to do it outside. Despite an 80% chance of rain in the forecast, the sky seemed to be lightening up, with no rain falling. The sun was doing all it could to break out that day. Natalie claimed to have done an anti-rain dance. It worked!
The setup at the Inn can be a little tough. Local ordinance forbids speakers outside the walls of the Inn, so you must throw your sound through the tent, over to the lawn. I'll be honest, it was tough making it through the ceremony, cocktail hour and dinner. It's so weird not being in the same room as your audience. It's tough to judge volume, quality of the music you're playing, whether the crowd is getting anxious, etc. It was great having Becky with me to help run the ceremony and keep me company during the down time.
Once we got things moved inside after dinner, the party picked up big time. We ran the gambit on music, feeling out the crowd and getting an idea for what they wanted. It seemed like early on, the crowd was demanding funk, oldies and disco. I hit them with a good dose of that and as they grew fatigued, the younger crowd started making their presence known. Next thing you know, we're time traveling through the 80s, 90s, 00s and beyond. We ended up in an outright top 40 dance party and that crowd was relentless. They would have had my head if I tried to slow them down. They had more energy than I could ever imagine.
The night came to a close at 10:30 (by ordinance, not by choice!). The crowd moved toward the dock and back to the mainland to continue the celebration at Bull Feeney's. Becky and I packed up the gear, got the car in line for the last ferry and took in a movie on the iPad.
Overall, it was a great day. A long, exhausting day, but a great day. We had one of the best dance crowds I've seen and a very happy couple, family and friends. I may end up back at the Inn sometime after all, something I never would have thought I'd be saying a week ago. Congratulations again to Natalie and Ryan as they move on to the next exciting phase of their life together!
It's hard to photograph dancing wedding guests when they're moving so fast and you're using a phone camera, but here are some shots from Saturday night!