This week marks the anniversary of the very first Lebowski Fest or the “1st Annual Big Lebowski What-Have-You Fest” if you’re not into the whole brevity thing. The very first event was held on October 12th, 2002 at The Fellowship Lanes on the seedy side of town in Louisville, Kentucky nestled between a trailer park and several strip clubs including “The Classy Lady” and “The White Collar Review & Stag Bar.”
The majestic Fellowship Lanes before the doors opened.
Lebowski Fest was born in the summer of 2002 when Founding Dudes, Will & Scott, were selling t-shirts at a tattoo convention. They were bored so to pass the time they started quoting lines from their favorite movie, The Big Lebowski. Lo and behold some other vendors jumped in and started quoting lines with them and they realized that they were not alone in their love (or some would say obsession) with this movie. They were sitting by the stage where the climax of this convention was happening which involved two people suspending from their “ass piercings.” They were out of their element but it struck them that if these people could have this weird tattoo convention, they could have a Big Lebowski convention. They knew of a tiny run down bowling alley they could rent out, came up with the idea to have costume & trivia contests and Lebowski Fest was born. They printed up a few flyers and expecting to have 15-20 of their friends show up, they were shocked to welcome 150 people to the event.
The first contests winners at Lebowski Fest.
The venue was fucking interesting, man as it was a Baptist-run center and had some restrictions that made this a funny venue for Lebowski Fest. They had rules against drinking and cussing and would not let us show the film as the F-word is used over 280 times in just two hours. But we went out and achieved anyway and had an absolute blast.
This is not Nam. This is bowling. There are rules.
We decided to have another one and in July 2003, the 2nd Annual Lebowski Fest drew over 1200 people from 35 states.The next year we added live music with My Morning Jacket and took Lebowski Fest on the road and to date there have been over 50 Lebowski Fests in over 30 cities. We had no idea there were so many Achievers out there. It is truly an honor to be able to travel the country and celebrate our favorite movie with fellow fans. Thanks for everybody who made this dream come true. And proud we are of all of you.
Here is a video by Bill Green of the 1st Annual Big Lebowski What-Have-You Fest. Well, enjoy.
Here is a recap written by Will a few days after the event if you want the blow by blow.
Will’s Recap of the 1st Annual Lebowski Fest
October 15th, 2002
Here is what happened at the 1st Annual Big Lebowski What-Have-You Fest.
150 people were in attendance at the “1st Annual Big Lebowski What-Have-You Fest” or “Lebowski Fest” if you’re into the whole brevity thing. Some as young as 15 and some closer to 50. Two guys traveled from Tuscon, AZ just to bowl at the Lebowski Fest. A group of kids skipped class on Friday, drove from Buffalo, NY, got towed on Friday night in Ohio and still made it to the event on Saturday! A father and son drove from Oxford, OH dressed as “The Stranger” and “Walter” and little brother and big brother came from Indianapolis dressed as “The Jesus” and “Jackie Treehorn”. Others traveled from Columbus, OH, Bloomington and Muncie, IN.
The staff at Fellowship Lanes who to this day believe that the movie The Big Lebowski was filmed on this night at their center.
It was a family affair in more than one way. The Fellowship Lanes is a Baptist establishment which meant two things: No Cussing and No Drinking. Yes, there was actually a big sign when you walked in with the words “NO CUSSING” scrolled ominously by the door. The irony was irresistible since the movie mentions the “F*** word” and its variations 267 times! We were not allowed to play the music we compiled for the event with 15 second audio clips from the movie between tracks because there wasn’t one clean one! Almost no one had an issue with the ‘no beverage’ policy but the 2nd annual will be at a place where the ‘White Russians’ can flow freely. The bowling alley was in a rather seedy area of town wedged between a trailer park and the most strip clubs per square mile in town – including the ‘The Foxy Lady’, ‘White Collar Lounge’, ‘Thoroughbreds’, and everyone’s favorite ‘The Classy Lady!’ It was nothing but good clean fun inside the Fellowship lanes. Seriously, it was just really fun!
The first round of trivia was impressive with over 30 people getting all 10 questions correct. We drew 10 round 2 finalists from the 30+ round 1 winners and came up with quite the trivia crew. Everyone was taken into the banquet room and given 10 more written questions placed face down with their number 2 pencils. You could cut the intensity with a knife as the contestants reached deep within their Lebowski memories to come up with the color of nail polish Bunny Lebowski wore.
Bill Green was busy running around with his mini-DV camera working on his ’1st Annual Big Lebowski What-Have-You Fest’ documentary. He interviewed Scott and I, the guys from Tuscon, the crew from Buffalo, Mike from BowlingRoadTrip.com, various attendees, and got some great Coen Brothers inspired shots of bowling and What-Have-You.
The costume contest was won by 15 year old ‘Jesus’ with his glued-on goatee which he enthusiastically kept pressing back on his face all night! Jesus rules! Second place was taken by some very spirited Nihilists with their jam box blaring some German Techno (Autobahn?). They had a lot of spirit for a group that believes in “Nossing”. Third place was taken by the Stranger who brought his son (Walter) and had “the whole cowboy thing going on.” Everyone who dressed up was awesome. There was a definite absence of ‘the Dude’ in the costume contest but the spirit of the Dude was alive and well throughout the night and seemed to be a little part of everything there.
As you can imagine, “Over the line!” was bellowed several times during the evening as well as “Mark it 8, Dude.” Probably my personal favorite part of the evening was when we were closing and it was Scott, myself, Flobie, the guys from Tuscon, the crew from Buffalo, and Mike from Bowling Road Trip hanging out and trading lines from the movie. It may not sound that interesting, but there was an intangible magic about it. Kinda had to be there I guess.
Furthest Traveled trophy went to the guys from Tuscon, and the crew from Buffalo won the engraved ‘Dude’ bowling ball and bag. Highest bowling score was 175. These were not necessarily seasoned bowlers. There was a greater purpose for the evening. With four hours of unlimited bowling, everyone got plenty of practice! All prizes were various vintage bowling trophies with “Big Lebowski What-Have-You Fest, 1st Place **** 2002″ engraved on them. Special thanks to the Nitty Gritty and Bombshells Clothing for donating the vintage bowling trophies.
So now it’s time to look ahead to the ’2nd annual Lebowski Fest.’ We will have a bigger bowling alley and one that allows not only drinking, but cussing as well! Hopefully by next year Mike from Bowling Road Trip will have hit all the bowling alleys in the country and can recommend one. We are considering a bowling alley in Louisville that is adjacent to a drive-in movie establishment. We would love to have the bowling from 8-12 and then have a midnight showing of the film at the drive-in! We would also like to get a celebrity from the movie to come down. There are some rumors that John Turturro a.k.a. ‘the Jesus’ visits Louisville from time to time and is somehow affiliated with Actors Theater of Louisville. We shall see…
Thanks again to everyone who braved 7th Street Road to be a part of Lebowski history! Please email us and let us know your thoughts or any suggestions for the 2nd annual What-Have-You Fest. This has been an absolute blast from conceiving the idea in July through the actual event last night.
Take ‘er easy…