With Valentine’s Day looming around the bend, over 100 Gainesville singles lined up to get into the High Dive’s newest event Friday night: “Truth or Drink”— because, why not?
Signing in with the QR code at the check-in desk, singles like Jason Schandorf-Lartey put themselves out there to potentially meet their newest love interest.
“I've never done anything like this before,” Schandorf-Lartey said. “It seemed intriguing. A friend sent me the link on Instagram. And I was just like, I'm very single and very bored. I figured it might be at least interesting.”
At the event, hopeful lovebirds paid a cover to mingle with other young adults, but with one catch: Every 20 minutes, they were paired with a new partner for the next date in a series of however many they chose to go on.
With the lights turned down low and the music loud, singles crowded the High Dive in search of a new connection, whether it be a new friend to make or the ever-desired destined encounter with a person they were meant to meet.
Schandorf-Lartey, a graduating UF psychology senior, is two months single and cited socializing and meeting new people as something he wanted to gain from the evening.
With drink specials available, many of the 21-and-over individuals were prompted to drink instead of answering potentially embarrassing or hard-to-answer questions, like: “What is something you’re glad your mom doesn’t know about you?” Or, “What is the strangest thing someone would find in your search history?”
The energy in the room was nervous. But as the drinks began to seep their way through the participant’s systems, the energy became less tense and eventually gushed with love-filled excitement.
The mind behind this creative concept was Elder Ripper. The 22-year-old UF alumnus returned to Gainesville to develop his community-building skills through entrepreneurial content creation and making people laugh.
His Instagram videos garnered attention from the student body after Ripper hosted several blind dates in Turlington Hall, simulating a real speed-date — only with heart-themed paper bags on the student’s heads to shield their identity.
Although Ripper was a bit nervous that the turnout wouldn’t be great with only 40 pre-ordered tickets, over 100 people attended. About five couples agreed they’d go on another date with their match, Ripper said.
“Things that get you out of your comfort zone tend to drive attraction,” Ripper said. “I kind of wanted to destress the whole dating environment by giving people the option to just come out and have fun, and in doing so, increase their odds, hopefully, of actually being able to make a connection.”
After the 20-minute rounds, participants could choose to continue playing the field and go on as many dates as they wanted, or they could head to the outdoor cocktail area and grab a drink with a partner whose company they enjoyed. This, Ripper said, was the main goal of the function.
Ripper plans on continuing to host events like these to continue gently forcing people out of their comfort zone in new and exciting ways. He received his master’s in international business and has thrived in event management and planning since high school.
Next, Ripper and his friends plan on hosting a stand-up comedy show with a new catch — softened and ripened fruits available for when they bomb the show.
It’s experiences like these that Ripper said spice up the nightlife in Gainesville, and he hopes to continue providing entertainment for the student population for the rest of the semester.
“I’ve been an experimentalist, obsessed with human experiences and interaction since I could remember,” Ripper said. “Coming up with unique experiences for people to have, bringing people together and giving people memories to experience life in weird and new ways is kind of my long-term goal.”
Contact Loren at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @LorenMiranda13.
Loren Miranda is a second-year journalism major and a staff writer for the Avenue. She is also a copy editor for Rowdy Magazine. When she's not writing, she enjoys watching either critically acclaimed films or cheesy reality TV, no in-betweens.