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Flashy fun Allison K. Sampite | Sun, Jul 17 2011 12:00 PM

Designed to surprise passersby, flash mobs assemble suddenly in public to perform an act for a brief time then disperse, often for the purposes of entertainment and/or satire.

For the first time, the Chula Vista Recreation Department will compete against other park and recreation agencies nationwide in a flash mob contest sponsored by the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA).

This event is to recognize July as Parks and Recreation Month and was found online by the
city’s Parks and Recreation supervisor Frank Carson. First place wins $5,000.

Carson asked the city’s recreation leader, Juanita Castañeda, to organize the event.

Castañeda, 24, has a background in dance, including salsa and hip hop, and is a previous
Zumba instructor for the city.

Castañeda said the group has a wide age range, with the youngest being 7 years old and
the oldest in her 60s. The class has 82 people registered.

“I’ve tried to keep the dance simple,” she said. “So far it’s been a lot of fun — I think people are
really enjoying themselves.”

Participants in the contest, open to ages 10 to 99, began practicing June 22 at the Parkway Community Center and were required to attend three practices in order to participate in the final surprise event Saturday, July 16.

Notable international flash mobs include the April 2006 “silent disco” in London, where from various London Underground stations, more than 4,000 people gathered to participate at Victoria station. In addition, International Pillow Fight Day was a flash mob that took place March 22, 2008, when more than 25 cities around the world participated in the first international flash mob, which was the world’s largest flash mob to date. According to The Wall Street Journal, more than 5,000 participated in New York City alone, overtaking London’s 2006 silent disco gathering as the largest recorded flash mob.

Jennifer Murdock is in the eighth grade and attends a private school in Lemon Grove. Jennifer, 13, said she joined the flash mob because she likes to dance.

“This will be my first public performance,” she said. “It was on my bucket list — I’ve seen flash mobs on YouTube and I thought it looked fun.”

Jennifer’s mother, sister and best friend are also participating
in the dance.

“It’s really fun being with all these people and seeing where they’re from,” Jennifer said.

Susan Botts found out about the event through Chula Vista’s Nixle website. Botts, 60, said she
thinks she is the oldest participant.

“I’ve always wanted to be a part of a flash mob,” she said. “It’s something crazy and fun to
do. It’s also a great way to stay in shape.”

Botts, who is now retired, was a federal probation officer and now volunteers with the Chula Vista library. Botts said being a part of the event makes her miss dancing. “I used to do swing, ballroom, folk and clogging,” she said. “I may get back into clogging after this — it’s triggered something in me.”

The flash mob dance consists of several songs — sort of a mash up — from different eras.

The term flash mob was coined in 2003 by the senior editor of Harper’s magazine, Bill Wasik, who was successful with his second attempt at a flash mob in Manhattan in June 2003 at Macy’s department store and in four prearranged Manhattan bars.

Wasik claimed that he created flash mobs as a social experiment designed to poke fun at hipsters and to highlight the cultural atmosphere of conformity— the desire to be a part of “the next big thing.”
Wasik said mobs started as a playful social experiment meant to encourage spontaneity and big gatherings to temporarily take over commercial and public areas simply to show that they could.

The event was scheduled to take place July 16.

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