Written by James Biagiotti, Marie Speed, and John Thomason (and our special panel of local insiders)
It was the best of times—it was the worst of times—but the last year has been one for the books. The Best of Boca was never better than this year, and here are the highlights, the lowlights and the many hits and misses of local lifestyle & arts in 2020.
EVENTS WE LOVED
The Boca Pumpkin Patch Festival, the Mayor’s Ball, the Battle of the Bands—and the Cowboy Ball reimagined at the Resort. And the next question is: Can we do all these again? What will they look like? Here’s hoping the New Normal looks a whole lot more like the old one next year.
HOME TOWN HOME RUN OF AN EVENT
The YMCA Corporate Cup Challenge, which will celebrate 10 years this November, was a field day for grown-ups, with 26 business teams competing. The net result? A lot of great team-building and $58,000 raised for the YMCA.
South Florida’s regional theatre scene was abruptly cut short in mid-March, just when it was scheduled to be at its peak. But recent productions like New City Players’ blistering “A Raisin in the Sun” have managed to sear themselves into our memories. An astute director and exemplary cast of allstars—especially Carolyn Johnson, who delivered the most emotionally moving speech in any production this season—spilled their guts on the stage, leaving themselves, and all of us in the audience, properly drained.
BEST ART-WORLD SNAPSHOT
At this year’s Palm Beach Modern + Contemporary art fair, stunning work bombarded the eye from all directions. Op art, lenticular art, 3D works and LED-enhanced art hung in countless galleries. Many pieces had moving parts, and they were not what they initially seemed, suggesting the art of the 2020s may be defined by razzle and dazzle. Click here for the full recap.
FESTIVAL HOME RUN
Amy Walter, a regular contributor to PBS NewsHour, was the wonky standout at Festival of the Arts Boca. Walter addressed a packed Amphitheater house just two days after Joe Biden shocked the pundit class on Super Tuesday. She admitted she had to rewrite her presentation based on the new data, and cautioned that it would be “unwise to think that there won’t be another seismic shift” in the race for the nomination. Sure enough, the coronapocalypse landed a week later.
The Boca Raton Regional Hospital Ball is sold out and raises more than $3.5 million. With Rod Stewart as entertainment.
BEST ART EXHIBITION
Maren Hassinger’s “Tree of Knowledge,” created last summer at the Boca Raton Museum of Art with help from local schoolchildren, consisted of countless tendrils of newspaper spiraling from the ceiling to the floor, hanging among strips of readable newsprint billowing under fans. There was a sense of perpetual motion in “Tree of Knowledge,” and with it the illusion of a pulse. The work ached to be physically explored, illuminating Hassinger’s status as a compassionate social ecologist whose materials are the embodiment of sustainability. Read the full exhibit review here.
Post-punk icons New Order played the Fillmore Miami Beach for its first-ever North American residency in a two-hour show that showed the spirit of the New Wave decade is alive and well. Read the full review here.
NEEDS A REBOOT
SunFest 2020 was a sad casualty of the COVID-19 pandemic—an unprecedented cancelation for this annual fixture of the Palm Beaches. While organizers surely hemorrhaged money from this decision, at least it will give them another year to shore up the festival’s ailing brand, whose 2020 “headliners” were its weakest in more than 20 years. Here’s hoping for a bigger and better 2021. Read the full commentary here.
ENTERTAINMENT TRENDS WE ARE LOVING
KARAOKE—LIVE AND TECH-FORWARD: Fearless fans of this bar staple have evolved beyond the bygone days of flipping through laminated songbooks the size of the Yellow Pages. At the Tin Roof’s Tuesday night event in Delray, singers enter their selections into an app. At Rockstar Karaoke, on Sundays at the Silverball Museum, also in Delray, you tell a versatile trio of musicians what you want to sing, and they’ll make—or fake—their way through it for a raucous good time.
TRIVIA FOR THE 21ST CENTURY: The quirky, laid-back trivia night known as Think & Drink features three rounds of general-knowledge questions in a variety of categories both traditional and eccentric, with answers ranging from multiple-choice formats to “name that tune.” Hosts provide an unusually generous gap between question and answer, all the more time to argue amongst your fellow-players or grab another beer—which is the main reason you’re there, after all. Check it out Tuesdays at Death or Glory in Delray.
BREAKING THE MOLD: If any unorthodox business should have been deemed “essential” during the coronavirus pandemic, it’s Wreck it Fort Laudy, a “rage room” whose participants have 35 minutes to destroy a selection of objects—dead computer hardware, housewares, beer bottles—with an array of blunt objects. In case you were wondering, you wear supplied PPE the entire time, making this stress-relieving diversion safer than a trip to Publix!
HOLE IN ONE: You needn’t be skilled on the links to have a great time at the golf-themed Drive Shack, which opened in West Palm Beach last year after months of anticipation. The venue’s chief attraction is its sprawling field of green, on which circles of varying size and proximity have been strategically designed. It’s the visitor’s job, from a rented bay overlooking the space, to land golf balls in these targets. The green space is really just the physical canvas for a handful of virtual layouts, like Monster Hunt, where players attempt to strike the “creatures” residing in the circles. Drive Shack also includes a patio with lawn games, retro arcade games indoors, and a full-service restaurant and bar, with delivery service to the golf bays. Indeed, imbibing while “driving” is encouraged.