This message has taken me a bit longer to write than planned, but I wanted to get all the Fools Fest Sprints merch and medals packed up, labeled and out the door in today's mail. That was priority one after the races ended. After that, I just had to sit in a chair and stare at the t.v. for a few hours. I was feeling a little brain dead after our race weekend, but I'm back this morning with something to say.
Thank all of you. From those of you who were the first to sign up for our original regatta in Chicago to those who jumped in the day before for our virtual online racing. You all played a huge role in our success/not failure. First off, I want to give a special shout-out to those of you who could not race with us online because you don't have an erg at home but told us to keep your FFS entry fee. You guys are my heroes. That generous act made it possible for us to pay for postage and ship all the FFS merch to everyone without going in the hole. Fools Fest Sprints is a labor of love created by three rowers in Chicago. We do not have any corporate backers, or a team, or a board, or a board room... We have a dining room table and some pens.
The medals, tees, and pint glasses, etc., are all paid for upfront, before the event. Beer sales at our post-race party are how we cover costs and make money on this event, so not having a party with everyone after the regatta meant we were in big trouble when Coronavirus shut us down. But then our virtual racers came along! You guys helped us dodge a major financial bullet, and although we did not make any profit on this year's event, I did not have to sell my car, and for that, I am very grateful! I am more than happy to work for free to keep this regatta alive and give everyone a chance to race. I was fortunate to get to compete at CRASH-Bs this year on March 1st. I know how much time and training goes into winter erg season. I was determined to make something happen, salvage this event, and hopefully not go to collections!
I had no idea if anyone would sign up for a virtual event. We had never done one, and as far as I knew there weren't any out there that actually let you race in real-time against another rower. Then we found RowPro and started playing with that app, and I thought, "Hey! Let's try this out. It hasn't been used like this for an actual online event, but let's see if we can make something happen here." The staff at RowPro was super cool and responsive to all of our questions, so we got this event back up online. We decided to keep the option open for people to participate using only their cell phones to send us their screens because we had no idea what would happen on race day and if the system would crash. I'm glad we had both! That allowed more people to play who didn't want to deal with the laptop and cable but still wanted to race, and it also saved a few folks who had the software freeze up.
RowPro is currently working on an app that you can use on mobile. Keep your eyes open for that, it could be cool, and my hunch is that we're going to be seeing a bunch more players in the game with real-time online race software. It is fun. It's just like sitting down on an erg at an indoor event.
So, thanks for helping us beta-test our FFS online event! WE MADE HISTORY. You guys were part of something that has not been done before (that I know of), a live online erg race where you compete against others in real-time. That's pretty cool. So relish your Fools Fest Sprints medals, towels, decals, and t-shirts. They are collector's items! Haha! AND SEND US SOME PICS of yourselves with your merch. We have almost nothing to show on our website for this year's race.
The last thing I want to say to you all is that the best thing about this whole Coronavirus-shutdown-debacle is that I got to meet and interact with a whole bunch of new people from all over the world that I would never have had contact with if FFS would have been held here in Chicago as planned. That is really cool. All of you have been on the FFS team and in for the win. Nobody has been negative or impatient. Even when I didn't have a good answer or know what was going to happen next... I really appreciate and respect that. It just makes me love the rowing community even more than I already do. Super great people from all over the place. Class acts, all of you!
I am very hopeful that we will be holding Fools Fest Sprints here in Chicago next April as a live event. I would love to see all of you in person and have a post-race beer with you! Cheers to you guys, and thanks one more time for keeping Fools Fest Sprints alive and still Chicago's Premier Party With Ergs!
Love and stay healthy and safe!
PS! For those of you not camera-shy, please send us some pics in your FFS merch.
Take a pic in your tee or with your towel and medal on your erg, under your erg, snap a shot of your FFS decal on something... whatever inspires you that we can post up on our website to show that, YES, this really happened in 2020! That would be amazing and I would be really grateful. Have fun with it.
PSS. This message probably has typos and grammatical errors as I am not having Melanie or Amy proofread it.