We are switching websites!! For this weeks Blog Post (and now on) head on over to the new site, The Mojo Chronicles! See you soon & keep your Mojo workin'!
 
Happy birthday, Elvis! To celebrate, Backbeat Tours and Graceland have teamed up for a very special 60 Years of Rock ‘n’ Roll Tour that you don’t want to miss. Click here for tour times. And make sure to check out the links at the end for other great events here and in Tupelo, Mississippi.

Forty years ago the City of Memphis held a parade down Elvis Presley Boulevard to the gates of Graceland, complete with floats and marching bands and both city and county mayors in attendance. Elvis himself came down to the gates and joined the festivities. Can you think of anything more awesome than your own city proclaiming a special day in your honor, and holding a parade down a street named after you to your very driveway, just to wish you happy birthday? (In case you’re reading this, Mayor Wharton, my birthday is April 17. Plenty of time to plan!)  Elvis was accustomed to fame long before this, of course, but still, it had to be a thrill for him.

But what about before all the fame and hoopla, back when he was just another kid in East Tupelo? I’ve been reading a lot about Elvis’ childhood in Depression-Era Mississippi, and it got me wanting to celebrate Elvis’ birthday the old East Tupelo way. (Because nothing says "party!" more than "Depression-Era Mississippi.")

So what were they like, Elvis’ birthday celebrations back in the day? Certainly far from the extravaganzas of later years. The Presleys were poor – “poor as a snail,” as one family friend put it, which sums it up pretty well. A few of Elvis’ friends would gather at the honoree’s house, and everyone would have the usual meal of beans and potatoes. (They weren’t vegetarians – that was just typically all they had.) If it was a good year, maybe Gladys would cook a chicken (after wringing its neck that very morning). There was usually cake and ice cream, of course – it was a birthday celebration, after all – but the ice cream, like the cake, was homemade, churned in an old-timey ice cream machine. The kids would all take turns cranking the handle for hours on end. (Fun!)  
And what about presents? Elvis would typically receive a shirt. A single shirt. I don’t know how many little boys’ birthday parties you’ve been to recently, but if the kid in question received a single shirt, and nothing else….well, let’s just step back from the horror of it all and simply remark that times have certainly changed. The shirt would be homemade out of feed sack material, a common practice during the Depression when many families didn’t have money to spend on store-bought clothing. Gladys, like many other Depression-era mothers, saved the bags that held the chicken feed, hog feed, flour and oatmeal that they purchased. These were big 50 lb. sacks sometimes made of colorful patterned cotton designed to attract the customer who was as interested in the sewing material as much as the chicken feed. Once the bags were emptied and washed and the labels and any printing removed, Gladys stitched and sewed them into dresses for her or shirts for Vernon and Elvis. Magdalene Morgan, a childhood friend of Elvis’, remembered that “Gladys was very good at sewing. She worked in a sewing factory. So Elvis would wind up getting the shirt, maybe a bar of candy.”  There’s something in the simplicity of it all that’s appealing, even today.

So drag out the ol’ ice cream machine, and get crankin’! As Magdalene puts it, “Those were the good ol’ times, something we will always remember.”

Elvis Birthday Celebration in Memphis: http://www.elvis.com/news/birthday_celebration_2014.aspx

Elvis Birthday events in Tupelo: http://tupelo.net/things/elvis_in_tupelo/default.aspx

 
We don’t really need a special occasion to mix two of our favorite passions – history and booze – (in fact when it comes to combining the two – the history of booze -- some might say we indulge a little too much, even though we prefer to call it “research”) – but, hey, New Year’s Eve gives us a clever excuse.  We’ve been hitting the books (and bottles) quite hard recently, and after many late nights, stumbling home blurry-eyed from…research…and watching the sun rise over the spires of Beale Street Baptist Church (yes, there is a church on Beale), we’ve developed exclusively for you, dear Reader, this fun, DIY, Downtown Memphis Vintage Cocktail Tour.  Why vintage cocktails?  Because it’s like drinking history!  And they go down much easier than a dusty old book.  (Yes, we’ve tried.  And no, don’t ask.) 
While drinking these classic concoctions, impress your friends with some historical tidbits. (If you can’t remember any of the information, go ahead and make it up!  After the second drink, no one will know the difference.)  One tentative word of caution here: the drinks below all come from a time when Americans seriously knew how to drink (that is to say, before you were born).  Do everyone a favor and take the trolley – all the stops are near the Main Street line.  And use a taxi or designated driver to get home: even though drinking and driving was arguably the true National Pastime through most of the last century, please remember that some aspects of history are best left in the past.  What follows is a recommended route, with recommended drinks along the way.  
Let’s get started:

Stop 1: The Peabody Lobby Bar

All decorated for the holidays, the Peabody makes a beautiful place to start. Have a pre-party photo shoot by the fountain, and then belly up to the Lobby Bar and order a drink. 
Presbyterian- A mix of bourbon, ginger ale, soda, and bitters, the drink dates from the 1890s. No one seems to know the genesis of the name, although it was likely a way of teasing the teetotaling Presbyterian population that was pushing for Prohibition.  Because of its resemblance to an innocent iced tea, the drink has long been a staple of Southern garden parties.  (That might explain Aunt Lily Mae’s behavior that one time….)
Stop 2: Silly Goose
The Silly Goose has bar rules like “When an awesome power ballad is playing you must sing along” and “Never pass up a shot from a staff member.”  Do not skip this bar!

Martini- During Prohibition it was easiest to manufacture illegal gin (think bathtub gin), leading to the martini's rise as the predominant cocktail of the 20th century. Originating in America sometime in the late 1800’s (there are many, many conflicting stories of its origin), the traditional martini is made with gin and vermouth, garnished with either olives or a lemon twist.  (Fun fact: Don Draper and Roger Sterling averaged close to 10 drinks per episode in Season 5 of Mad Men. Just thought we’d mention that.)

Stop 3: Majestic Grille
The Majestic will be playing the Beale Street Guitar Drop on the big screen so try to make it here a little before midnight. The old-fashioned theatre ambiance will pair well with your vintage cocktail.

Corpse Reviver #2- Popular around the turn of the 20th century, a “reviver” was a class of drink also sometimes known as an “eye opener,” intended to be imbibed in the morning.  In his cocktail book published in 1930, Savoy barman Harry Craddock warned of this drink (of which there were numerous variations), that “four taken in swift succession will unrevive the corpse again.” Having four of these drinks any time of day would put most folks under the table (each drink is a double by modern standards). The Corpse Reviver #2 is technically not on the bar’s drink menu (it used to be), but go ahead and order one anyway.  

Stop 4: Blind Bear Speakeasy

Complete with two-way mirrors and poker tables, Blind Bear actually feels like your traveling back to prohibition. Channel your inner bootlegger and pretend you’re in an episode of Boardwalk Empire.

Old Fashioned: Woodford Reserve- Popular in the late 1800s and early 1900s, the drink was created in reaction to a cocktail culture that had become overly obsessed with fruit, frills and flourishes (hmmm, can’t imagine that….) The Old Fashioned is a throwback to the original Cocktail, which was simply booze of choice, sugar, bitters, and sometimes a dash of liqueur.  In the early 1800’s, some European travelers in America considered the Cocktail to be the country’s finest invention.  If you like bourbon this drink is right up your alley, consisting of only a sugar cube, bourbon, and bitters, garnished with a cherry and orange peel to make it look more harmless than it is.

Stop 5: Local

Local is throwing a New Year’s Eve Party. They will have free party favors, as well as food and drink specials. They also have an enclosed patio, which will provide some prime people watching down Main Street.  

Aviator: Also called the Aviation, this drink was created by Hugo Ensslin, head bartender at the Hotel Wallick in New York, in the early 1900s, perhaps to celebrate the success of the Wright Brothers’ flight.  Made with gin, maraschino liqueur, and lemon juice, it’s the hard-to-come-by crème de violette that gives the drink its sky-blue color and hint of floweriness.


Stop 6: Twilight Sky Terrace at the Madison Hotel

End your tour here with the most beautiful view of Downtown and the river.  Take some “after” pictures of you and your friends with the Mighty Mississippi as your backdrop, and then compare them to the “before” shots you took at the Peabody.  (This will let you know if you accidentally left any of your friends behind along the way; if so, do the stops in reverse order until you find him or her. But have your drink here first!)  

Pomme Fizz- The Fizz became widely popular in America between 1900 and the 1940s. Known as a hometown specialty of New Orleans, the Gin Fizz was so popular that bars would employ teams of bartenders taking turns shaking the fizzes.  This one adds pomegranate liqueur and egg white for a fruitier, frothier experience.  (To test whether you can make it out the door, try saying “fruitier, frothier” 10 times quickly). 

Send your photos to us via Facebook or Twitter!

 
 It is time to play a little game of mine is bigger (or smaller) than yours.  We want to see who's got the biggest and smallest Christmas trees in Memphis, because to be honest, when it comes to holiday cheer, size matters. Its time to put the Griswolds to shame. 
Here is how to play:

1.   Like us on Twitter: https://twitter.com/backbeattours
2.   Take a picture measuring your tree. Use a ruler, yard stick or tape measure to let us know how big or 
small it is. 
3.   Tweet us your picture at @backbeattours and use the hashtag #sizematters
4.   We will retweet your picture to let you know you have been entered. The deadline to tweet us is January 5,  2014.
5.   We will pick the biggest and smallest trees and post them right here on the blog on January 7, 2014! Each
winner will receive a $25 gift card to Home Depot.
6.   Spend your gift card to invest in more lights or a bigger tree for next year!

We are looking forward to your submissions!
 
Picture
These door guys couldn't resist getting goofy by the entrance to the lobby!
You may think you have the coolest job in Memphis, but unless you are marching ducks at the Peabody Hotel, you’re probably wrong. Peabody Duckmaster Anthony Petrina spends his days in the beautiful hotel lobby making kids smile and enjoying life as a goodwill ambassador for the South’s Grand Hotel. Almost everyone know the story of how ducks ended up in the Peabody Hotel fountain, and like every good southern story it involves a little hunting and lot of Jack Daniels on a chilly fall day. Today the custom of the ducks has evolved into a daily march that is as steeped in tradition as the hotel itself. 

I sat down with him in the red and green adorned lobby to pick his brain about what it’s like working with farm animals during the holidays. “I love being here especially during the holidays, this was how I was introduced to the hotel; all the decorations were just going up,” Anthony told me.
Picture
The tree in the Grand Lobby.
Anthony was offered the Duckmaster position after working as a manager in the hotel’s restaurants.  His bubbly personality, not his animal skills, landed him the job. When I asked him if he had any background in animal training he replied, “Not in animal training, no. My family dogs run the house…and the cats are worse!”
After practicing telling the story and training with the ducks, he was eventually ready for his first march. Anthony informed me that there is no dress rehearsal for the ducks. Each time a new set of ducks makes their debut (every three months), they are seeing a live audience for the first time.  In Anthony’s words, this occasionally leads to things going “a fowl.” (Yes he went there, he made a duck pun.)  One time it took him 15 minutes to get a new set of ducks into the fountain. “They must have been escape artist ducks before they came here.” He said he’s even had an occasional “diva” duck escape to underneath the huge floor-to-ceiling Christmas tree in the lobby. 
Picture
An escape artist duck made a run for it. Luckily the Duck Secret Service swooped in to save the day.
To finish up the interview, I decided to throw in a little Christmas Q & A.

1. Favorite Christmas Song?
The more fun ones! Here comes Santa Claus, Rudolf the Red Nose Reindeer. I remember as a kid trying to see Rudolph’s nose passing by. I once saw what I know now to be taillights of a car passing by and I thought it was Rudolph! I was like YES! Christmas presents are here. I was further encouraged by me getting out of bed, sneaking downstairs and gasping because the Christmas presents were actually there.

2. Favorite Christmas Movie?
A Christmas Story, obviously.

3. What’s at the Top of Your Christmas List?
“Nothing from Duck Dynasty. No offense to the show, those guys are great and I love duck stuff, but people come in and they’re like oh yeah, Duck Commander!... Not quite, different show, different attitude towards ducks.”
Backbeat/Peabody Disclaimer:  This interview was conducted before Duck Dynasty-Gate!


4. Any Peabody Christmas traditions?
We’ve taken our Christmas family photo in front of the Christmas tree for the last two years.  I asked if he wore his Duckmaster uniform in the photo, Anthony replied, “Of course! We may have to change it up next year though.”

There you have it folks. If you want to see Anthony do his thing live and in person go to the Duck March at 11 a.m. or 5 p.m daily. Also if you want to keep up with Anthony’s duck tales (yes another pun!) check out the Peabody Duckmaster Blog.  Merry Christmas!
Backbeat tips for best Duck March viewing: Make sure to get there early. People start lining up around an hour before the march.  For the best view on a crowded day, choose a spot by the railing upstairs in the mezzanine level.  And don’t miss the holiday decorations; they are absolutely breathtaking.
 
Zoo Lights vs. Starry Nights

The battle begins for the best Christmas lights in town. Christmas lights are one of the unique things that you never get too old for. Whether it’s a huge light display, or a simple row of lights on someone’s home, everyone appreciates the work and beauty of well-placed Christmas lights. Luckily for Memphians we have two major options when looking to get in the holiday spirit via light show. Starry Nights is held in Shelby Farms and Zoo Lights in Overton ParkChannel your inner Griswold, because here are the results:
Round 1: Weather 
Winner: Starry Nights
My favorite saying about Memphis weather is, “If you don’t like it, wait 20 minutes, it’ll change.”  With our notoriously unpredictable weather (ask Dave Brown) and unusually cold temperatures this year, the safety of your heated car at the drive-through attraction Starry Nights is the best bet. You can even buy tickets online, which will save you time and gas, something everyone is short on these days!

Round 2: Attractions
Winner: Zoo Lights
Zoo Lights seems to only be getting better and better with age. This year includes a 90-foot LED Ferris Wheel, a 200-foot-long tunnel of lights, live reindeer, a new Courtyard light display, ice-skating and camel rides. There’s also something to be said about being in the zoo at night. It’s an exciting combination somewhere between Ace Ventura: Pet Detective and Night at the Museum!


Round 3: Food
Winner: Starry Nights
This round was very close. Zoo Lights has funnel cake and hot chocolate, a classic. The edge however, goes to Starry Nights. Since you’re in the car you can bring dinner or snacks of your choosing. You want to eat fruitcake and drink eggnog? Go to it. Better yet, save money and pack a cooler with things guaranteed to please even the pickiest eaters.

Round 4: Animals
Winner: Zoo Lights
 Another hotly contested round, but this time the winner is Zoo Lights. The Animals of the Night, the Herpetarium, the Farm and the Aquarium will all be open during Zoo Light Hours. They will also have live reindeer at the Northwest Passage, but the reindeer’s ability to fly remains untested. Last but not least, they have camel rides for $3 for members and $4 for non-members.

Round 5: Prices
Winner: Tie

Depending on how many people are going either option can be cheaper. Starry Nights is $20 per car and is open from 6pm-9pm, 10pm on Friday and Saturdays. Get there as close to opening as possible, as traffic does get congested around the area. Zoo Lights is $6 for members of the Zoo and $8 for non-members. Their operating hours are from 5:30pm-9:30pm. Try to get their as soon as the sun sets; it’s a little warmer and the lines are shorter for attractions like ice skating.

Overall Winner: Tie

With each event having its pros and cons, there is no way to decide which one is the best. In the end the real winner is you. Not every town has two amazing light shows, so go forth and enjoy! Happy Holidays!

For more information here are the links to each event.
http://www.shelbyfarmspark.org/starrynights

http://memphiszoo.org/zoolights
 
Giving Christmas gifts is always a little stressful. There’s the danger you may over or under reciprocate. We decided to put together a list of Memphis themed gifts even Santa would be jealous of. Here is a range of present ideas sure to please every Memphian.
1. For the Sports Fanatic
What’s better than combining Memphis’s two favorite sports teams on one shirt? That’s right, nothing. 
$20, Dylan Kail Art Shop on Etsy    
2. For Family that’s In Town
Tired of being cooped up inside? Come ride around the city on a heated bus listening to the sounds of some classic Memphis music. Bonus: We give you a break from entertaining your relatives. Click here to check out our website, theres a tour for everyone.  
Prices Vary, Gift Certificates Available  http://www.zerve.com/Backbeat 
3. For Those Who Appreciate a Good Skyline
This cityscape detail captures the unique skyline of everyone’s favorite hometown. They even have colors to match any room!
$29.99, American Decals
4. For the Hep Cat
Hal Lansky, son of clothier to the King Bernard Lansky, recommends Blue Suede Shoes… As long as no one steps on them of course.
$155, Lansky Brothers at The Peabody

5. For the Bookworm
Its cold outside, so let this book tell you all about Downtown, Memphis from the warmth of your couch. Bonus: You can even get a copy signed by author William Patton on December 19 from 5-7pm at the Southeast Memphis Costco located at 3775 Hacks Cross Road., Memphis, TN 38125. 
$19.99, Amazon
6. For the New Musician
Every musician has to start somewhere. This Epiphone PR-4E Acoustic-Electric Guitar Player Pack makes a great starter guitar or a guitar that's going to get a fair bit of abuse. These are availible at the Gibson Guitar Factory Downtown, as well as at Guitar Center. It's a great deal for the guitar and amp!
$199, Guitar Center
8. For the Foodie
French macarons, chocolates, and madeleines all made right here in Memphis! Baker Erica Thewis brings a taste of Paris halfway around the world.
Prices Vary Depending on Quantity, Pisatche Pastry

10. For a Classier Way to Represent Your Area Code
Looking for a subtle way to show some love for your favorite area code? This necklace is perfect for 901 lovers anywhere in the U.S.
$53, PangaeaDesigns Etsy Store

11. For the Southern Gentleman
Mo’s Bow Ties was created by 9 year old with killer style. They come in literally every color and pattern, so you’ll never be underdressed this holiday season.
$45, Mo’s Bows Etsy Shop or at A. Schwab on Beale St.

12. For the Guitar Aficionado
The National Reso-Phonic guitars, suggested by our music guide Kathryn, weren't made in Memphis, but were played by several famous blues guitarists from the area.  Folks like Son House and Bukka White, both from the Mississippi Delta, used National Reso-Phonic guitars. To read up on the history of these guitars click here. 
Prices Vary, Vintage National Guitars 
13. For the Teenager (Or Anyone With Ears)
Justin Timberlake is the Elvis Presley of today. Who knew that the N’sync singer who bleached hair and cornrows would eventually turn into the purveyor of class.
$15 on iTunes

14. For Those Looking to Pay Homage to the Late, Great, Adventure River
For generations Adventure River was a mainstay for Memphians in the Summer. Relive your water park glory days with this t-shirt.
$20, Heiroglyph Creative Co.

15. For the Elvis Lover
The Wertheimer calendar with 16 months of Elvis? Be still my beating heart. Just go ahead and put a hunky 33 year old Elvis clad in leather on my Christmas list while your at it.
$14.99 shopelvis.com
16. For the Person Who Already Has Everything
You might be asking why would someone want a Memphis toilet seat, to which I simply reply: Why Not?
$200, Memphis Music on Beale St.

 
“George, Festivus is your heritage.  It’s part of who you are.”
“That’s why I hate it.”  
Seinfeld, “The Strike,” 1997.
Oh, yes, those “honored” holiday traditions.  With Thanksgiving around the corner and Christmas and Hannukah close behind, we thought we’d share some of our staff’s most crazy and lovable family traditions.   We couldn’t quite match the silliness of Festivus, but we hope you’ll enjoy. 

What’s your family’s favorite holiday tradition?  Tell us about it! 

Bill Patton
When I was growing up, my family would watch movies together around Christmas time.  Big deal, right?  Well, this was the Dark Ages -- the early 1970s -- long before Netflix and cable tv, even before video stores and VCRs.  These were movies on actual reels of film, delivered to our house in metal cases, two to four reels for each feature.  We’d thread them into a rented projector and show them on the living room wall. 

And I was the Christmas ham.  Yes.  I was 8 or 9 years old, and when Dad would change reels in the middle of a movie, I’d get up and entertain the family: draping myself in a blanket like Rudolf Valentino in “Son of the Sheik” and, since it was a silent movie, making up dialog (“Come into my tent.  Please to excuse my camel”), or recreating the James Bond fight we had just seen in slow motion -- acting out all the parts myself, naturally.  One year I jumped onto the back of a chair, just like Gene Kelly in “Singin’ in the Rain,” but instead of tilting it back and riding it gracefully to the floor, it broke with a loud crack, which everyone except my mom thought was funnier than in the movie. 


Rachel Koch
Everyone in my family struggles with volume control. If you have something you want to say when we are all together, you have to say it faster and louder than anyone else. Last year, during the annual Christmas gift name draw, everyone was talking at once, prompting the need for a “talking pumpkin.” Only one person could speak at once, and they had to be holding the pumpkin. So now at every holiday there’s a “talking object.” So far there is the original pumpkin, the talking candy cane, Easter egg, American flag… you get the point.

Dylan Holzemer
Every year at Thanksgiving, we get together at my uncle’s house. He’s a big foodie, and one of his favorite things to eat around the holidays is mashed rutabaga. Keep in mind, nobody else will touch the stuff, but every year he makes a giant pot of it and offers some to everybody. When everyone turns it down, he gets this giant grin on his face and just puts the pot right next to his plate and eats straight out of it along with dinner.


Shekinah Langford
Normally, family traditions are started by mom, dad, grandma or grandpa, but, in my family, our cat decided to start his own tradition.  Broken ornaments!  Yes, our cat likes to challenge us by hiding inside the Christmas tree and knocking off the ornaments one by one. We find broken ornaments all over our house.  We always try to stop him, but he hides deep inside the tree where we can't reach him.  An unorthodox way of celebrating the holidays?  Yes.  But he is a cat after all.    


Meagan May
My grandmother insists that we "explore the tastes of other cultures" so we never have the good ole' Christmas dinner. Instead, we have themed Christmas dinners. At Thanksgiving, we pick a different country and for the next month we experiment in the kitchen to make the popular food from that country. Sometimes it's really good (Creole, Italian, German), but other times I really miss the ham and rolls (like the year we did Ethiopian cuisine--and no, i'm not joking)! 


Nancy Apple
If every blood relative within 50 miles was not at the supper table, then any extra chair was filled with men from the Navy base or friends of my big sisters. And if all my daddy's workers had family to go to, then he and mom were sure to put the word out that anyone else with no place to go was invited. I used to be really shy around all those strangers, but, looking back now, that was one of the most thoughtful and generous things that my mom and dad did.


These traditions, big or small, are part of what make the holidays special. So pour a drink and brace yourself, because, as we all know, the holidays bring out the best, worst, and craziest in families    
 
Now is the time to grab your light sabers, sonic screwdrivers, phasers and wands because this weekend is the Memphis Comic and Fantasy Convention.  Here are our top 5 reasons to attend this 72 hour nerdvana:

1. Cosplay. In a time where Halloween is dominated by ridiculous “sexy” costumes, (Sexy Octopus? Really?) comic cons give you opportunities to dress up like a Hobbit without being labeled a prude. Hit up the local thrift stores to create the perfect costume and compete in the Saturday Night Costume Contest.

2. Bricks and Heroes. This event has a little bit of something for everyone. For novices who see Legos merely as carpet land mines left out by kids, be awed by the intricate creations of Lego exhibitors from all over the country.  If you already know the full potential of Legos don’t miss the Lego vendors, films, and live build competitions going on all weekend.

3. Harry Potter Studies. Everyone’s favorite wizard is now so popular that it’s the subject of not only intellectual analysis, but there are also college courses being taught on the Harry Potter books. (I’m looking at you, U of M: its time for Quidditch Studies!) The books are quickly becoming canonized literature. Professor Spencer Reese, English department chair at Lausanne Collegiate School in East Memphis, is leading discussions about Harry Potter and its effects on literature and culture. Make sure to not miss out Saturday at 1pm.

4. Memphis Cinema Sci-Fi Showcase. If you read our Indie Memphis post, hopefully we convinced you that films made in the city are amazing. Luckily this weekend you’ll have a chance to catch up on some local science fiction cinema. The Memphis Comic and Fantasy Convention has joined forces with Craig Brewer, acclaimed director of Hustle and Flow, Black Snake Moan, and Footloose, to host the event. The best handmade sci-fi films Memphis has to offer will be shown Friday from 8:30-10pm.

5. Meet Jess Harnell. If you were born before 1990 and owned a TV you have probably seen The Animaniacs. We’ve all spent some quality time with Yakko, Wakko and Dot, aka the Warner Siblings. Voice actor Jess Harnell brought the crude humor of Wakko to life, but if that’s not quite cool enough for you he also voiced Ironhide the Autobot and Barricade the Decepticon in the Transformers movies. How often can you get to meet an Animaniac, Autobot and Decepticon all in one day?

Running this Friday through Sunday, tickets for the Memphis Comic and Fantasy Convention range from $15 to $35. All this geekery will be going down at the Hilton in East Memphis. We are offering $2.50 off with a Comic Con ticket and $5 off if you're also wearing costume if you take one of our tours. Click here for the link to the MEMPHIS COMIC AND FANTASY CONVENTION website to know more. 

 
What’s that I hear? Christmas music already?!  Yes, folks, the season is upon us.  Even though Christmas itself is still over a month away, it’s already taken over store-fronts and shopping malls.  I know many of you are already thinking about getting that fabled head start on buying gifts for the family and looking forward to decorating your own houses.

With all the excitement that this season brings, many businesses and offices around town are bound to be dreading the annual office Christmas party.  You know the drill: co-workers huddled into small groups around the office, pilfering from a meat and cheese tray (probably purchased that same morning at Wal-Mart); everyone is attempting to make small talk, but all anyone can really talk about is... work.

This year, I’m here to help. I’ve searched high and low to come up with a list of fun, interactive alternatives to that boring, same-old-same-old Christmas party. 

Starry Nights at Shelby Farms Park: November 29-December 27. Starry Nights is the Mid-South’s largest holiday light show, featuring over 2 million lights!  Take goofy photos with Santa (to hang in the office break room, or course), visit the Petting Zoo, then roast s’mores and drink hot chocolate around the campfire. But how to do it as a group? Charter the Backbeat bus, of course! Everything you can do in the office, you can do on the bus—drink, gab, even share Wal-Mart appetizers (if you must), but you’ll finally have something to talk about besides work.  Call us at (901) 527-9415 or visit this website for more information.

Enchanted Forest at Pink Palace Museum: November 23-December 31. What could be better than walking through this winter wonderland complete with animated animals, an elves’ workshop, and penguins frolicking in the snow?!  The Pink Palace’s halls are lined with Christmas trees donated and decorated by local businesses and individuals; you could even up the ante of your Christmas spirit by having your business sponsor a tree with your moniker and really show off your office teamwork! Check out all the different events that make up one big, happy Enchanted Forest here

Volunteer.  Want to show just how well your office works as a team while also giving to the community? Why not become a designated drop-site for the Memphis chapter of Toys for Tots! To become an official Toys for Tots drop-site, fill out your company’s information here.  Office not quite set up for easy toy-drop access? Host a clothing drive party! Have every one clean out their closets, then donate the items to the local Salvation Army (hello, tax deduction!) or even a homeless shelter. Perhaps your staff would like to spend time making gifts that make a huge difference? In that case,  a care package assembly line might be right for you. Make care packages (snacks, drinks, puzzle books, magazines, etc.) for family members of hospice patients at Mid-South hospitals or for our troops overseas! Click Here for more great volunteering ideas.
Caroling:  anytime, anywhere. What ever happened to good, old-fashioned, door-to-door Christmas caroling? Personally, I’ve always dreamed of opening my door at Christmas time to be greeted by a group of men and women dressed in Victorian clothes (but I suppose modern attire would be just as good) serenading me with holiday songs.  In tune, out of tune, either way, it’s just fun! If that’s a bit too up close and personal for your group, then let Backbeat plan a caroling party for you!  We’ll set up times for your group to sing at local retirement homes, hospitals, or even one of the parks around town (think: Court Square by the fountain!).  If you’re feeling really brave, you could even schedule to make a record of your group at Sun Studio. Call us at (901) 527-9415 for details.

Beer-tasting parties. With the four new microbreweries in town, there are plenty of opportunities to let your inner elf shine through! Take your colleagues on a trip to any of these popular spots where they can learn about the process, recipes, and even taste some of those home-grown beers y’all want to try. If you like, we can combine them all into one single tour for you, accompanied by some of the best Memphis music you’ve ever heard! Memphis Made BreweryHigh Cotton BrewingWiseacre Brewing Co. & Ghost River Brewery
Now that you’ve got some fresh, new ideas, get out there and start changing the face of your Annual Office Christmas Party. Do your party up Memphis style: with flare, with finesse, and most importantly—with FUN!

Meagan May, Backbeat Guide and Party Planner Extraordinaire