Last weekend, I saw a gorilla sky a fairy. Such a sight is regularity at Fright Flight, a Halloween themed tournament in Fort Collins, Colo.
At Fright Flight, teams are required to dress up in a costume. Some of this year’s themes included The Newsies, Amish-ish, 50 Shades of Grey, Ultimate Referees, and The Jungle Book. In the finals, a Peter Pan themed team (Love Tractor) defeated A Very Zombie Christmas to win the tournament on universe. But truthfully, the winner of doesn’t really matter.
“It’s just Ultimate for the sake of Ultimate,” said Chris Gauen, captain of Hibida, Colorado State University Men’s team. “You’re just playing to play, you’re not playing, necessarily, to win…But it’s mostly just coming out cause you just like the sport.”
In an era of Ultimate that is set on commercializing and advancing the sport, this tournament allows players to dig their feet into the field and remember all of the reasons why they started playing the game.
“[I play] because the costumes, the theme, the people, and the Spirit of the Game. I feel like a lot of people forget, in Colorado, about the spirit,” said Amanda Painter, a Fort Collins resident and former captain of Hayride, a Women’s team made up of Oklahoma and Arkansas players. Her Fright Flight team Liquor and Cleats, donned “homeless themed” costumes this year.
“I just love [that] everything is laid back. Its just Ultimate with no one [getting] super heated. Everyone’s just there to have fun,” said Gauen.
Besides the prominent reasons for participation, the costumes and the silly atmosphere, many of the area’s club athletes also put together teams to conclude their season. They were not, however, playing with the same mentality that they brought to regionals, just a few weeks earlier.
“This is kind of the wind down of the season. Had we qualified for nationals, [Kill Joy] may or may not be here at all. But we’ve had strong regional showings and this is the one last tournament to come out and just goof off,” said Kill Joy coach Lance Everette. “We go into indoor season next week, so this just everyone’s chance to unload.”
Apart from Kill Joy’s team, The Newsies, who impressed everyone by building a newsstand during their first round bye on Saturday, members of Inception, Swingline, and Love Tractor were also in attendance.
“It’s fun to have a creative outlet at the end of the season, when you’ve been focusing so much on just work, work, work, work, work,” said Everette.
It makes sense that so many talented players would want to be a part of this party hard, play hard tournament.
“I come to fright flight because it’s the perfect combination of fun and competitive,” said Nick Nelson, Loveland, Colo. Resident, who spent Saturday and Sunday dressed as a hot-pink flamingo. “Its fun to put costumes on and run around, especially if you take the sport seriously most of the time and then come here and play in a costume. It kind of lightens things up.”
All of this foolishness develops a wonderful bond between teams.
“The spirit of fright flight is camaraderie. Community,” Painter said.
This Spirit of the tournament generates interest among all age groups, throughout the Ultimate community. It gives everyone a chance to get out on the field.
“One of these guys, [Tom Gleason], has played in every one of these since the mid nineties,” said Everette. “For me, I like it because I get to see both generations hanging out, playing together and partying and having fun.”
So when you wind down your College, Club, AUDL, even NEXGEN season, be sure to encourage your teammates to jump in on a tournament like Fright Flight, where players can forget about the pressure and the practice, get their costumes dirty, and if they are lucky, they too can sky a zombie-Santa Claus.