Going with the flow

Labor Day float takes a new, safer route: party to busses to tubes

AMPING UP<br>From the VIP room at The Loft, Natural Roots rocks the crowd behind the foam pit (seen closer below). The party was a morning prelude to the river float that followed.

From the VIP room at The Loft, Natural Roots rocks the crowd behind the foam pit (seen closer below). The party was a morning prelude to the river float that followed.

Photo By Bryce Benson

Party accessories:
You may see people wearing Bikini Bash T-shirts around town. About 350 were given away on a first-come, first-served basis. Dragon Graphics, a Bikini Bash sponsor, supplied half the shirts free of charge. They are online at www.dgprints.com.And if the foam pit sounds cool, check out Prime Time Interactive at www.primetimeinteractive.com.

Last Sunday (Sept. 2), the partying began at an hour most students hadn’t been awake to see all summer long: 9 a.m.

Credit two Chico State students for coming up with a way to keep the annual Labor Day float tradition alive, despite the police crackdown in recent years.

Since the cops have stepped up enforcement, the number of tubers has dropped from more than 25,000 to fewer than 1,000 in recent years. David Kleinschmidt, 22, and Nick Viskovich, 23, saw an opportunity.

Thus the Bikini Bash, a now-annual event that the two men initiated last year. Their goal, Kleinschmidt said, is to “responsibly keep a Chico tradition alive.”

This year it all began at an apartment complex, referred to as “The Loft” by students, on the corner of Sixth and Cedar streets. By 8:30 a.m., the band Natural Roots was setting up its equipment in the complex’s courtyard, and by 9 the music was going strong. For two hours, lead singer Eric Tillman, a Chico State student, sang Roots originals, Sublime covers and other reggae-rock songs.

By 10, a sea of bathing-suit-clad partiers started dancing and jumping in the foam pit set up 10 yards from the stage. Others mingled in the crowd and chased their alcoholic beverages with Rockstar energy drinks, one of the event’s sponsors.

“This is the second year we’ve got to do this show,” Tillman said. “It’s a blast to get out here this early and have a crowd this big to play in front of.”

The party planners used what they learned from last year’s party to make sure they covered all the details, Viskovich said. He’s majoring in special events and tourism at the university, so the Bikini Bash was right up his academic alley, so to speak.

Employees of the Paradise-based company Prime Time Interactive monitored and regulated the foam pit, which carries a $1,200 rental price tag, during the morning’s celebration of the school year’s first three-day weekend. Owner Bryan Payseno, who steers clear of any college parties he thinks might get out of hand, said the daytime event was a success.

“Everything there was good,” Payseno said. “The guys I had out there were impressed by the two guys who ran the event.”

That’s not to say the production from Visko and The Schmidt Productions didn’t go off without a hitch. The organizers overlooked one detail in a plan that included security, busses, an EMT and river rescue. They forgot to set up rope lines to move the energized and tipsy crowd onto the buses that would take them to the Sacramento River, beginning at 11:30 a.m. Inflated tubes in hand, a flock of partiers crowded the vehicles’ doors like sheep being herded through a narrow gate.

Photo By Bryce Benson

“Getting on the bus was ridiculous, but other than that, it was incredible,” one participant, Spencer Murphy, said.

Partiers spilled into the street trying to win the race onto the bus, and the crowd they formed attracted police. Three arrests were made, but no one let the poor luck of a few ruin their good time.

Now squeezed on the bus, eager tubers continued partying until they were dropped off at the Irvine Finch River Access. Temperatures on the bus had to be 10 to 15 degrees higher than outside, so the person who figured out how to open the windows got a big cheer.

Over the next three hours, bus load after bus load came from the concert to the float. Those who were too drunk were nabbed by police waiting at the river. The time it took to drive and drop off each load could be measured by the distance between each batch of tubers on the river.

As one man’s shirt read, it was “Beer Can Beach or Bust!” There, everyone converged, and the mellow vibe that started at the Chico house party continued.

“We were really happy no one acted stupid and there were no fights,” Viskovich said. “The crowd was primarily Chico State and Butte College students, so there were no out-of-towners to screw it up for everyone else.”

At Beer Can, tubers stumbled ashore, walked the beach tripping every so often on protruding rocks, and peed in the river, while the occasional girl went wild.

There, the different faces of the Chico party scene were on display. A few people ducked behind Beer Can’s scraggly bushes to vomit. Elsewhere, the acid trippers, smiles wide across their faces, were living in the psychedelic moment, really enjoying the feeling of water dripping from their trunks. Clouds of smoke lingered in the air as people passed pipes or blunts.

Beer Can also provided an example of partying ingenuity.

The night before the big day, a group of men floating the river in their finest pirate garb buried two kegs on the island. Then, after Sunday’s float, they dug up their “treasure kegs” to the amazement and pleasure of the 1,000 or so other partiers on the beach.

The Bikini Bash wasn’t free. Each attendee coughed up $20 to partake. After three months of promoting the event through Facebook, MySpace and word of mouth, Visko and The Schmidt Productions had sold 900 wristbands.

It didn’t make them rich. Security measures cost a bundle.

However, they did pocket enough to start planning their next event. Again, they will plan it around a holiday with rooted Chico traditions, such as Halloween or Cesar Chavez Day.

“We want people to be able to party on the holidays that all Chico State students have partied on during the past,” Kleinschmidt said. “But we want them to be able to party in a safe environment where they won’t get in trouble.”