Join a flash mob at a Florida resort

On Friday, diners at the Quinn’s on the Beach restaurant at the Marco Island Marriott Beach Resort, outside Naples, Fla., experienced something a little different with their pan-seared snapper and peel-and-eat shrimp: a flash mob, a seemingly impromptu but well-choreographed dance attack by several dozen students from a local high school.

Dancing to the music of Sonora Carruseles, the students salsa danced their way along the beach to the surprise of patrons.

“It was a chance for our students to do something different for homecoming,” said Leigh Anne Bates, principal of the First Baptist Academy. “Flash mobs are a part of pop culture, and this just seemed like a cool thing to do.” 

The group was the first to take advantage of the resort’s new Mobbed at Marco Island group package, in which guests can engage in the sort of “flash mob” dance numbers seen on YouTube or television shows such as “Glee” and “Modern Family.”

The idea was conceived in June as a way to enliven a Marriott company meeting at the resort. “The first speaker was about to kick off the general session, the music started and people broke out into dance,” said Bob Pfeffer, the resort’s director of sales and marketing, who helped organize the event. “It was a shock at first, but a lot of people in the audience joined in.”

Rolled out for the public last week, the package costs $10 to $35 per participating guest, which includes a choreographer to teach the moves, a videographer to shoot the event and the resulting DVD. It can be customized for business and leisure groups, involve guests and/or resort employees and include special occasion-specific add-ons.

“How fun would it be if a couple went to our recreation hut on the beach and suddenly the music starts?” said Pfeffer. “The staff breaks out in a dance — maybe they’re all wearing T-shirts that say will you marry him — and the guy proposes?”

While skeptics may consider the flash-mob angle a gimmick, Pfeffer disagrees, citing the viral nature of dance-themed group events, such as “Jill and Kevin’s Big Day,” the insanely popular YouTube wedding video that’s received a whopping 69.9 million hits since it was posted two years ago.

It’s all about creating memories, he told msnbc.com. “Whether it’s a gimmick or not is in the eye of the beholder.”

“Hotels are trying to set themselves apart from all the other properties that people can choose to go to,” said hospitality consultant Scott Brush. “They’re trying to say, ‘Here, you can do this or that; there you can’t.’ Weddings, bar mitzvahs, quinceañeras — people are always looking for the opportunity to do something different.”

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Rob Lovitt is a longtime travel writer who still believes the journey is as important as the destination. Follow him at Twitter.

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