At 7 p.m. last Friday night, as another one of those zero-to-squall rainclouds mercifully parted, Mizner Park Amphitheater’s inaugural ‘80s Game Night opened for business. While a DJ spun tunes from that most decadent of decades—Bon Jovi, Eurhythmics, Simple Minds, etc.—kids and kids-at-heart enjoyed retro fun and competition on carnival games popularized back when Phil Collins was still a spring chicken.
There was an antique Whack-a-Mole, once the dominant way for youths to constructively unleash their aggression, with its requisite mallets dangling on threads that were too short; the water gun game, where players focused streams of H20 on desired targets; and inflatable basketball and football challenges where young men tried (and usually failed) to impress their girlfriends.
Other party games, along with oversized versions of living-room staples, dotted the grounds as well, from the inevitable cornhole to a giant Jenga-style setup to a tabletop imitation of “Operation;” the more drinks people consumed from the nearby beer garden, the more liver surgeries went catastrophically awry. There was a giant Lite Brite where artistic visitors created transient flowers, hearts, starbursts and alien heads, and a mobile video arcade stocked with machines that contained a hundred games apiece. (When my wife and I followed a 12-year-old boy—our neighbor’s son—into the arcade, a staff member said to me, “You need to leave your drink outside, dad,” which was infinitely amusing to someone whose only offspring have four legs and fur, but I gamely played along.)
A smattering of unhealthy food carts—not enough for an event of this size—and a popular caricature artist and palm reader from Boca Raton’s own Nikko Entertainment completed the festivities. The latter featured the longest queue of the evening, and in an industry rife with charlatans, she was spot-on about nearly every observation she gleaned from the lines in my palm. It was well worth the 20 minutes in line.
By 9 p.m., attendance was at its peak, and every entertainment station was filled, though most players were courteous, keeping wait times to a minimum. For someone who was there from the beginning, it was easy to while away three hours on an event that was equal parts county fair, nostalgic-themed prom and lavish birthday party. Moreover, it was great to see the City of Boca Raton think outside the box of tribute bands and family movies, and introduce this exciting new concept to its Summer in the City series. If you missed it, you have one more chance to experience it this summer, on July 20 from 7 to 10 p.m. For information, call 561/393-7890 or visit mizneramp.com.