This Party Begins With Two Strangers, Then Snowballs Into A Big Boozy Puzzle Crawl
By Abel Horwitz
A new traveling party takes guests on a journey across L.A. with clues, activities and bars, gradually bringing smaller groups of people together for a larger social gathering.
A few years ago, L.A.-based actor/producer John Pick wanted to throw a party. He got this idea while at a networking BBQ chatting with a friendly stranger. Not enjoying the artifice of the reason for their meeting, he thought out loud, "What if we created this party...kind of like the NCAA tournament bracket?" As they were chatting about his idea he thought to himself, "I have to do this."
Or, rather, he thought to do the opposite: start with two people on a quest, add two more, and then keep doubling it until it became a full-fledged party. He called this concept "The Snowball Party" and he gathered a few of his friends together to organize it before letting it loose on the streets of Los Angeles.
Last Saturday night, Pick threw his third Snowball. The concept for this one was to get people thinking about social media. He and his team placed people in different corners of Los Angeles—West Hollywood, Silver Lake, North Hollywood and downtown L.A.—and gave them quests to go on, puzzles to solve and existential questions about their relationship with social media to ponder. Throughout the evening, Snowball presented its guests with the opportunity to meet new people who were on this strange journey as well.
Pick's event partner, Adam Boardman, was organizing the journey that I was invited to attend. On Friday night, he sent my girlfriend and me their welcome e-mail, telling us to go to separate locations on Melrose Avenue and await further instructions.
For my girlfriend this didn’t sit well. She was happy to join me on this journey, but to start out the evening with strangers and to not know when she’d see me again gave her pause.
When I asked him about this, Boardman assured me this was all part of the plan.
“Tell her not to worry!” he wrote me. “Snowball is about a slow reveal, a journey of discovery of the city, of others, and of yourself.”
I went to my assigned location at my assigned time. Per Snowball's request, I have been asked not to reveal too many details about my journey. "I think there's a lot of the experience that is 'What's behind this door' [and] 'Where are we going next' that I'd like to preserve," Pick explains to LAist. "We're looking to do another one late January."
Once I got to my first location I met up with Barry, a film production designer. While I had given Snowball a few pieces of information about me—such as my dietary restrictions, if I drank alcohol, and if I was single or coupled—I was stunned at how easily Barry and I clicked. I’m wondering if they did some additional research on each of their attendees, or if this was merely a serendipitous pairing, as Barry and I found a lot of common ground, bonding over the "Hamilton" soundtrack, rock climbing and vinyl records among other things.
We walked around West Hollywood in search of our next location, and once there we met up with two women, Sarah and Erika, also on the journey. Together we found what we were looking for and shared the bottle of vodka lemonade Snowball had included with our clue. Clearly, I was in the group that checked "Yes" next to alcohol.
Encounters like this set the tone of the evening. Each encounter brought us to a different place. Alcohol was presented to us, we met up with more people and were given a bit of an adventure to find our next destination.
If I learned anything about myself on this journey, it's that I will drink anything placed in front of me as long as it's free....that's certainly not a good thing.
My girlfriend and I were reunited when her foursome joined mine, and she admitted to me that once she met her first partner (who happened to be Barry’s fiance) that she was put at ease and found herself enjoying the journey. The booze included in her clues helped as well. We were all happy and all tipsy, at ease chatting with each other.
Our herd continued to get bigger. Eight became 16, and 16 became 32. Our group was starting to take over bars and crowd sidewalks. It was great fun, though I’m sure a bit of a nuisance for those around us wondering what a gaggle of (mostly white, mid-30’s) people were doing standing around and chatting.
But it was also most assuredly a scene. We were all a part of this growing party. It was easy to chat with everyone, asking them where they’d started out and where their journey had taken them. Conversation flowed, alcohol was poured, and the party just got bigger and bigger.
Pick noticed this about his event as well. "People are really talking to each other," he said. "There's so much to learn about each other. So many different paths people have taken. Like, 'Where were you tonight' is a question people are really interested in because they've all been part of one collective experience."
The event culminated when two massive groups found each other on alternate sides of the street. Our throng merged together into its final mass, and we were lead to the final party replete with a DJ and more alcohol.
“I love this city,” Boardman told me at the party. “This way we get to take people out of their comfort zones. We get to show them a Los Angeles they might not know. Meet new people. Have a new experience.”
I certainly had fun. Snowball’s mission statement is to merge the virtual community with the actual community, and it was a great opportunity to party and meet friendly people willing to try something different and interesting in our vast city.
“Snowball is that wonderful mix of active and passive participation,” Boardman continued, shouting to me over the music and the crowd. “You [the guest] have to make sure that you’re standing in the first spot we ask you to go to, but once you’re there, you put your evening in our hands.”
I smiled at Adam, looked around at all of the people I had met that evening, took my girlfriend by the hand, and we danced the night away.