On a frigid afternoon in December, a group of Lowellians gathered at Armory Park not really knowing what to expect.
During the weeks prior, there was much talk of a Lowell “Flashmob”event but details were few and far between. Invites were sent on facebook alluding to a “Flashmob Yankee-Swap” or “Flashmob Sunday” by an elusive John Smith aka (Santa’s Little Helper Elf, Community Advisor at Santa, from the North Pole, Alaska). His profile pic featured an animated cartoon Santa extending gifts in his hands.
Invitees were encouraged to bring a home-made gift: a piece of art, a mixed cd, etc. and assemble at noon in Armory Park.
Little clues were posted on the event page in the days prior: a video of The Police’s “Message in a Bottle” and Nena’s “99 Luft Ballons” but nothing could have prepared this group of gatherers what was in store for them.
That morning Santa’s little helpers were certainly on task. Members of MillCityFlashMOB were busily inflating balloons and tying postcards to strings, amongst other tasks to prepare for the event.
On that bone-chilling day, Master of Ceremonies Obehi Janice kicked off the event with her megaphone, exclaiming “Okay everyone, jump up and down if you’re cold! “Twirl around if your cold!” “Hug someone if you’re cold! This is about community!”
Participants were asked to tie their balloons around their wrists and write a personal message on postcard that would hopefully make its way to someone, somewhere.
While helpers were arranging and separating balloons and attaching postcards that had actual QR codes on them, Obehi Janice asked “So who knows everyone at this flash mob today?” Everyone was instructed to get into a circle.
While the “Funky Chicken” played, gift-givers were asked to pass their gifts to the right, then to the left, then to someone wearing a different color as them.
“Now pass the gift to someone who lives in a different neighborhood as you,” Janice exclaimed. “Meet someone new, make conversation!”
Armed with biodegreable balloons, strings and postcards, about 50 Lowell residents then made their way down to Lord Overpass.
Obehi Janice used her leadership skills to get everyone to complete a square around all four sides of the Lord overpass.
Many cars passing by honked their horns and were met with cheer from the Mill City flashmob crew.
When you see Santa Claus, release the balloons, people!” exclaimed Janice. And so, they waited. Suddenly, Santa was seen making his way on bicycle below the overpass.
The crowd released their balloons and watched as 50 plus balloons crawled up into the sky carrying messages of holiday cheer. One postcard said “be gentle with yourself.” Soon the sky was filled with balloons and the crowd cheered.
After the release of the balloons, everyone headed to the Revolving Museum to open up a wide array of swapped gifts: a hand-written book of quotes, a poem, mixed cds, scrap-books, art-work, sculptures, etc. Gift givers took part in hot cocoa, cookies, and community.
Mauricio Cordero, Executive Director of the Revolving Museum, was the recipient of the hand-written book of quotes. “Having been so caught up with work and then to see this–people coming together to exchange their time, seeing people provide for one another in this kind of way and letting loose and laughing, I feel like for me personally, this is the beginning of my holiday season,” he said. He then thanked everyone for coming and invited everyone back to The Revolving Musuem’s 2012 opening reception on January 6, 2012.
Jessica K. Wilson, a Lowell resident, said “I think Lowell’s first flashmob was awesome. Releasing balloons around the Lord Overpass was like a scene from one of my surrealist dreams. I had an great time.”
“This event was totally fun. I got some lovely, dilly beans from Santa Claus and we released the balloons into the air. I got to write a special message and it went away in the wind so hopefully a middle-schooler will find it,” said Lowell resident, Kristen Angelos.
“This was an amazing turn out. I wasn’t sure exactly how many people were going to show up, but everyone made it awesome. All the balloons going off all at the same time—it was a beautiful sight. The music was cool and everyone that helped out did an awesome job and I’m just so happy that a community can come together and share such an awesome experience. I loved it. I absolutely loved it,” said Sam Antonaccio.
Obehi Janice, the event’s MC commented by saying: “This was amazing. And I got to use a megaphone but I’m a little upset that no one believes in Santa Claus, she laughed. No really, it’s just nice to see such spontaneity and all good things associated with this wonderful, holiday season.”
Two days later, a resident on the Southshore found one of the postcards.
For more information about the Mill City Flash Mob event, please visit: http://www.facebook.com/MillCityFlashMOB.