This week an estimated 100,000 fans will converge upon Charlotte, NC for the 2015 CIAA Tournament. Although the primary reason for this event is to determine the basketball champions for the oldest African American athletic conference in the nation, anyone who has attended knows it’s more about partying than college hoops.
With hundreds of events going on at once, CIAA can be extremely overwhelming, but I’m here to provide a few keys to surviving the social mania.
Comfort is Key. The good thing about having the CIAA tournament in Charlotte, NC is that many of the events are all within walking distance. Fan Fest will be held at the convention center, about 5 blocks from the party nucleus – The Epicenter – which is a few blocks away from Time Warner Cable Arena, where all of the games will be held. In other words, you WILL be walking. Wearing comfortable shoes and clothes is essential. This means no high heels and tight dresses during the day, ladies. You’re setting yourself up for disaster, and quite frankly, it looks like you’re trying too hard. Leave the club wear for the nighttime and your cute flats or wedges for the day. Trust me, your feet will thank you later.
Arrive Early. EVERYTHING will be packed this week. That means, if you’re trying to get into the dope parties, arriving early is not an option, it’s a requirement. Once it gets too packed, police will cut off access to the Epicenter. This usually happens during the day, Friday and Saturday, between 3-4 pm. Also, having tickets to an event doesn’t mean guaranteed entrance. I’ve heard tons of stories about people who bought advanced tickets to an event, only to arrive after 12 and not be able to get in. So, if you’re heading to a day party I would arrive before 3 and if you’re going out at night, I’d arrive no later than 10.
Note: if you have a table, your arrival time can be more flexible, but they will sell your table too, so if you have one I would arrive by 4pm and/or 11:00pm.
Stick to the Nucleus. With the exception of the NC Music Factory, the center of everything this week will be the Epicenter. With clubs, bars, restaurants, a bowling alley and more in one spot, most people will be attending functions at this venue. If you haven’t purchased advance tickets to an event and are looking for somewhere to fall into or just want to hang out and people watch, this is the place to be. Just being in the area will be like a club in itself. So, if you’re unsure where to go, you can’t go wrong here.
Pregame. In my opinion, this is essential before going to any party, but I digress. Let’s not kid ourselves, a lot of drinking will be going on at the CIAA tournament and in an effort to save a few coins, it’s always a good idea to have a few drinks before you go out. If you’re not staying in the Uptown area (which I highly recommend) you may not be able to do this, but keep a bottle of your favorite libation in the room and pre-party with your folk. That way, once you get to the spot you’re already turned up.
Note: Uber will have extra drivers available this weekend and there will be plenty of cabs, so there is NO need to drink and drive.
The Buddy System. This one is mainly for the ladies, but fellas can get caught up too. With 100,000 people all drinking and partying at one spot, you’ll want to make sure you’re hanging with someone you really like AND trust. Friendships have broken up over CIAA. One person is feeling one club and another one isn’t. Your girl wants to chill with this group of guys and you have a man at home and would rather not. Hanging with someone who doesn’t understand your party practices will affect your whole experience. Choose wisely.
Note: Hanging out with HUGE groups of people, especially women, is not a good thing. You want to be able to move around freely and change plans without it taking an act of congress. Keep your groups to 4 or less.
Plan Your Outfits. The perfect blend of spontaneity and planning are important this week. You want to allow some flexibility with your party plans, because you never know what will pop up or who you will meet. Those are things you can’t control. But the main thing you will want to control is how much time it takes you to get ready. No going through tons of outfits at the last minute. Have two outfits already picked out for day and evening parties – everything from shoes to accessories. Highs will be in the 40’s and lows in the 20’s this weekend, so you’ll also want to dress warmly.
Have Fun. This should go without saying, but it usually has to be said. This can be one of the best times you’ll have or most frustrating, so relax and have fun. Don’t put too much focus on what you’re wearing or where you’re going. You can’t really go wrong with anywhere as long as you stick to this guide.
Happy CIAA and may the odds be ever in your favor.