“Where’s Herbie?,” the DJ playfully asked the crowd. It was Thursday night and they had just been locked into the Iggy, Windmill Windup’s bigger of two carnival tents. “Where is he!?” Volunteers echoed the call, sending a ripple of Herbie chants as anticipation built among the milling party-goers.
Finally, the lazer lights focused in on the locked door and everyone’s patience was rewarded. The music cranked up, the doors busted open, and in came a giant elephant in an astronaut suit riding on the shoulders of a dancing mob. The crowd went nuts for Herbie, Windmill’s mascot, and hoisted him into the DJ booth, and as he hit “play” on Dr. Dre’s California Love, the masses got down.
Windmill Windup is ultimate’s consumate combination of competition and fun. In my eleven years of playing all over the world, I’ve never seen anything like it.
“We want to make it something you will never forget, a once in a lifetime experience,” says Tournament Director Yves Groen. “Last year’s Windmill should be something completely different from this year’s Windmill. We want to surprise people and have them going away having had the best three or four days possible.”
Yves and his crew of 140 volunteers make it happen with a recreational smorgasbord that Jaime “Idaho” Arambula, a veteran of over 500 tournaments, calls a “Cultural Piledriver.” On Friday night, players could ride on Timothy, the ferris wheel; they could smoke a joint in the Bendo while watching Pulp Fiction with a live band that played along with the movie’s score; they could party down in the Iggy with live band karaoke and a DJ later on; they could sit around a bonfire into the wee hours.
“It’s half festival, half Frisbee tournament,” says Windmill music organizer Snowy Dopheide. “Instead of massive stages with bands, you have Frisbee games.”
Windmill’s organizers encourage players to disregard social barriers and get to the congregating as quickly as possible. “I’ve met new people just waiting in line for stuff,” says volunteer Ryan Meier of Mor ho! “It’s a very open environment.”
They also strive to keep their constituents on their toes. Each accepted captain for this year’s tournament received a hand-written Charlie and the Chocolate Factory-style golden ticket as a welcome gift. Last year, they all got personal text messages from Herbie that directed them to a YouTube link with a news reel about their teams.
“We want make it fun for ourselves,” says Groen. “Sure, we want to outdo ourselves organization-wise, but really we just want to do something different.”
The quality of Windmill’s organization matches how much fun it is. The level of detail here is incredible: volunteer organizers reference a complicated spreadsheet that’s broken down by the five-minute mark to tell the who, when, and where to things like setting up tables, laying out breakfast, and taking out the trash. They did a walk-through for tonight’s entertainment at two o’clock today and a walk-through for tomorrow’s finals entertainment at three.
The volunteers come from here in Amsterdam, all over Europe, and beyond. Meier is from Michigan in the United States. “The volunteering has been just as much fun as actually playing. I met people from all over the world.”
Groen is grateful for volunteers like Meier. He stopped me a half hour after we first spoke to offer a heartfelt addendum. “I just want to say, this team. Is amazing. The stuff we’re doing is just… out there. We work all year to make this a good event, and there’s tons of detail from the trash collecting to the guy running the 3D printer, and at the end of the day we still make it fun for us. I’m only a small piece of the puzzle.”
“I don’t know if I just have a biased viewpoint, but this is by far the most fun tournament I’ve ever been to,” says Meier. “Spring break was close but it wasn’t this. I’ve been here since Monday and I haven’t left the grounds. I don’t feel the need to.”
Feature photo by Raf Celis.