The History of TBOX - How it Began 1996 thru 2001

To View Photos from TBOX 1996-2001, Click Here

How TBOX Started, 1996-2001, as told by Christopher “Mister Festa” Festa, Founder of TBOX

“The entire reason I started TBOX was to have a party without my friends trashing my one bedroom apartment… and to meet girls, and that’s pretty much it… There was no master plan.”

IT ALL STARTED BACK IN December 1996, a time when almost nobody had a cell phone and very few had e-mail…there was no Facebook, no Twitter, no texting. It wasn’t nearly as easy as it is today to spread the word about parties and events, and if you wanted to meet somebody somewhere, you had to BE ON TIME at a certain place.

How did we ever survive?

For those who knew me as a youngster, I used to have a little party from 1994-97 in my Lincoln Park apartment called “Festapalooza” – but, within a few years, with my apartment being trashed, and threats from the landlord and neighbors, it was time to look at doing something OUTSIDE of the house. I’d heard of this “12 Bars Of Christmas” idea… so I put the word out to my Accenture (then Andersen Consulting) co-workers, and the date was set… Saturday, December 14, 1996.  I arrived at Goose Island Clybourn promptly at 4pm for Bar Number One, and…

No one showed up. The bar was empty save for 10 or 12 people I didn’t know. I sat ALONE until 4:45. Then, two of my friends showed up… Don and Ty. Fortuitously, I asked a bystander to snap what would become a historic photo — the Zapruder Film of TBOX — of the 3 of us holding up one finger symbolizing “Bar Number One” – and TBOX had begun…

TBOX 1, Bar 1, December 1996 - How TBOX Began
TBOX 1, Bar 1, December 1996 – How TBOX Began

At the second bar, about 15 other people were waiting, and I felt like this thing might be a success after all. That 2nd bar, by the way, was called “US Beer Company” and is now a Sleep Number Mattress Store.

By the end, we had OVER 60 PEOPLE, and the bars included McGee’s, Kelly’s, Glascott’s, Kelsey’s, Charlie’s Ale House, a few others, and ended at a bar on Lincoln called “Tailgators” which is now called “Kendall’s”. There were no badges, or t-shirts, no stickers, no frames, no costumes, no sponsors, no posters, no banners. But there was cereal… two boxes of Cap’n Crunch that I brought with me for snacking. And that was the first TBOX.

TBOX #2 in 1997

I didn’t think much about TBOX over the next year, and it was not AT ALL clear whether I would do it again. It was just another of the many little pub crawls I put on for fun every few months for my Accenture co–workers.

Friday, September 12, 1997 also marked the Final Festapalooza Party, and right after that, my company sent me to work in Europe long-term and I thought I’d be gone indefinitely. But I ended up being home from Thanksgiving to New Years, and just thought, “Hey, I might as well have that Christmas bar crawl again.” So, from a hotel room in London, I drafted the TBOX2 schedule and sent it out via Interoffice “Electronic Mail.” On that Saturday in 1997, starting at McGee’s, TBOX2 kicked off and was a raging success with about 80 people, and we even wore some Santa Hats!

Bar #1 of TBOX2 in 1997 at McGee's in Lincoln Park
Bar #1 of TBOX #2 in 1997 at McGee’s in Lincoln Park


TBOX3, 1998, The First Great Leap Forward

I was back in the USA in the Fall of ’98, and was excited for the 3rd TBOX. More people had e-mail, the word spread, and great things were in the air. I woke up that Saturday around 1pm. Can you imagine? TBOX didn’t start until 4PM!  You could sleep late and not miss a thing. And that year we had a one-day freak heatwave and it was SEVENTY-ONE DEGREES – which brought out a ton more people!

As we arrived at Bar #1, about 100 people were there already – at the time, it was mind-blowing.  And it just popped into my head, “Let’s count how many people are here!” How? “Let’s write on everyone’s hand with a marker!” And so, one of the first great TBOX traditions, the “Numbers”, was born.

Bar #1 of TBOX3 in 1998: The 71-Degree Day in December that increased TBOX Attendance over 400
Bar #1 of TBOX #3 in 1998, Goose Island Clybourn

We ended up with about 350 partiers. The route included Kincade’s, The Store, Deacon Brodie’s, Corner Pocket, Hidden Shamrock, and a few other Lincoln Park places.  We signed certificates for people who had gone “wire to wire” — the first time that came about, and the first documented use of “TBOX” (see below)

The Wire-to-Wire Certificate from 1998, The First Mention of the Term "Wire to Wire" in Association with TBOX
The Wire-to-Wire Certificate from 1998, The First Mention of the Term “Wire to Wire” in Association with TBOX


TBOX4, 1999, The Big Move to Wrigleyville

TBOX3 was awesome, and since I expected at least as many people the next year, I knew that the tiny taverns if Lincoln Park would no longer hold us, so I decided to move up to the land of big bars – WRIGLEYVILLE.

TBOX4 was billed as “The last pub crawl of the 20th Century” – and I moved up the start time to 3pm. And honestly, I was a little worried that people would think that was too early to start drinking. But it wasn’t. And so I just kept making it start earlier and earlier, which is why you now have to get up before 6am!

TBOX4 in 1999: TBOX Legends Ty Sherman, Greg Goze, Tony Yaniz with Mr. Festa
TBOX4 in 1999: TBOX Legends Ty Sherman, Greg Goze, Tony Yaniz with Mr. Festa

TBOX4 began at the now-long-gone LAKEVIEW LINKS, then to Sheffield’s, and on to some of the familiar bars of Wrigley which are part of TBOX to this day, such as Redmond’s, Cubby Bear, and Sluggers. TBOX4 ended at ABNER’S YARD, which is now Mullen’s. It was a VERY HAPPY and FESTIVE event, and the first where I had my own little website to promote and put up pictures. We had about 650 people — still counted with markers by hand — but despite the success, I thought it might be the last… at that time, I thought it was likely I’d be married within the year, and that I might be moving permanently to Silicon Valley to become a dot-com millionaire. But I was just in time for the bubble…

TBOX #3 at Kincade's, 1998
TBOX #3 at Kincade’s, 1998


The Wilderness Years: TBOX 5 and TBOX6, 2000-2001

Compared to December 1999, things kind of sucked for me a year later. I was working 14-hour days for the now-struggling dot-com in the least exciting place in the world at the time, San Jose, California. The girl was gone, and I was getting to come home to Chicago less and less. But emails started to trickle in, saying… HEY FESTA, WHAT DAY IS TBOX? So the show had to go on.

TBOX #4 in 1999
TBOX #4 in 1999

I made one trip home in November to set things up and used this other new thing called “EVITE” to spread the word. Then I flew back in the day before, and we ended up topping 950 people. TBOX had started taking on a life of its own. And yes, we were still writing the numbers on everyone’s hands, which by this time was growing tedious for me. And, I had to fly back to California Monday, and leave all the memories behind, again, not knowing what the future would hold.

By TBOX time in 2001, I was now unemployed, another relationship had ended, and I had given up my Chicago apartment. I had taken a 2-month solo cross-country road trip over the summer and in the fall, I was planning a trip to Europe to further help “find myself” for a few months and use my last frequent flyer miles. Unfortunately, and it’s an absolutely true story, I bought my ticket to leave on Tuesday, 9/11/2001 – I was all packed and ready to go… but the trip never happened. By late October, I found myself house-sitting for my friend L.A. Michelle, spending my days at the Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf in Santa Monica half-heartedly looking for a new job. With the cloud of 9/11 hanging over the country, I wasn’t thinking much about TBOX, but the emails started to come in again – WHAT DAY IS TBOX?  And if I canceled it, the terrorists would win, right? So TBOX #6 was on!

TBOX #5 in 2000
TBOX #5 in 2000

I flew in Thursday night before TBOX to crash on my friend’s couch and then was going to do some planning on Friday, but at 6am I started getting calls from strangers asking about TBOX. Unbeknownst to me, it had been listed in this new web site called Metromix, with my personal cell phone number, so I spent all day answering the phone!  We ended up with over 1,200 people, and I wrote the first numbers on my friends’ hands at the Pre-TBOX Brunch we had. And it was there that having a “Low Number” first became a big deal, with my friend Lionel as the first “Number One”.  Anyway, I flew back to LA the next week, and again, had no idea if there’d be a TBOX #7…

The History of TBOX - How it Began 1996 thru 2001

To View Photos from TBOX 1996-2001, Click Here

How TBOX Started, 1996-2001, as told by Christopher “Mister Festa” Festa, Founder of TBOX

“The entire reason I started TBOX was to have a party without my friends trashing my one bedroom apartment… and to meet girls, and that’s pretty much it… There was no master plan.”

IT ALL STARTED BACK IN December 1996, a time when almost nobody had a cell phone and very few had e-mail…there was no Facebook, no Twitter, no texting. It wasn’t nearly as easy as it is today to spread the word about parties and events, and if you wanted to meet somebody somewhere, you had to BE ON TIME at a certain place.

How did we ever survive?

For those who knew me as a youngster, I used to have a little party from 1994-97 in my Lincoln Park apartment called “Festapalooza” – but, within a few years, with my apartment being trashed, and threats from the landlord and neighbors, it was time to look at doing something OUTSIDE of the house. I’d heard of this “12 Bars Of Christmas” idea… so I put the word out to my Accenture (then Andersen Consulting) co-workers, and the date was set… Saturday, December 14, 1996.  I arrived at Goose Island Clybourn promptly at 4pm for Bar Number One, and…

No one showed up. The bar was empty save for 10 or 12 people I didn’t know. I sat ALONE until 4:45. Then, two of my friends showed up… Don and Ty. Fortuitously, I asked a bystander to snap what would become a historic photo — the Zapruder Film of TBOX — of the 3 of us holding up one finger symbolizing “Bar Number One” – and TBOX had begun…

TBOX 1, Bar 1, December 1996 - How TBOX Began
TBOX 1, Bar 1, December 1996 – How TBOX Began

At the second bar, about 15 other people were waiting, and I felt like this thing might be a success after all. That 2nd bar, by the way, was called “US Beer Company” and is now a Sleep Number Mattress Store.

By the end, we had OVER 60 PEOPLE, and the bars included McGee’s, Kelly’s, Glascott’s, Kelsey’s, Charlie’s Ale House, a few others, and ended at a bar on Lincoln called “Tailgators” which is now called “Kendall’s”. There were no badges, or t-shirts, no stickers, no frames, no costumes, no sponsors, no posters, no banners. But there was cereal… two boxes of Cap’n Crunch that I brought with me for snacking. And that was the first TBOX.

TBOX #2 in 1997

I didn’t think much about TBOX over the next year, and it was not AT ALL clear whether I would do it again. It was just another of the many little pub crawls I put on for fun every few months for my Accenture co–workers.

Friday, September 12, 1997 also marked the Final Festapalooza Party, and right after that, my company sent me to work in Europe long-term and I thought I’d be gone indefinitely. But I ended up being home from Thanksgiving to New Years, and just thought, “Hey, I might as well have that Christmas bar crawl again.” So, from a hotel room in London, I drafted the TBOX2 schedule and sent it out via Interoffice “Electronic Mail.” On that Saturday in 1997, starting at McGee’s, TBOX2 kicked off and was a raging success with about 80 people, and we even wore some Santa Hats!

Bar #1 of TBOX2 in 1997 at McGee's in Lincoln Park
Bar #1 of TBOX #2 in 1997 at McGee’s in Lincoln Park


TBOX3, 1998, The First Great Leap Forward

I was back in the USA in the Fall of ’98, and was excited for the 3rd TBOX. More people had e-mail, the word spread, and great things were in the air. I woke up that Saturday around 1pm. Can you imagine? TBOX didn’t start until 4PM!  You could sleep late and not miss a thing. And that year we had a one-day freak heatwave and it was SEVENTY-ONE DEGREES – which brought out a ton more people!

As we arrived at Bar #1, about 100 people were there already – at the time, it was mind-blowing.  And it just popped into my head, “Let’s count how many people are here!” How? “Let’s write on everyone’s hand with a marker!” And so, one of the first great TBOX traditions, the “Numbers”, was born.

Bar #1 of TBOX3 in 1998: The 71-Degree Day in December that increased TBOX Attendance over 400
Bar #1 of TBOX #3 in 1998, Goose Island Clybourn

We ended up with about 350 partiers. The route included Kincade’s, The Store, Deacon Brodie’s, Corner Pocket, Hidden Shamrock, and a few other Lincoln Park places.  We signed certificates for people who had gone “wire to wire” — the first time that came about, and the first documented use of “TBOX” (see below)

The Wire-to-Wire Certificate from 1998, The First Mention of the Term "Wire to Wire" in Association with TBOX
The Wire-to-Wire Certificate from 1998, The First Mention of the Term “Wire to Wire” in Association with TBOX


TBOX4, 1999, The Big Move to Wrigleyville

TBOX3 was awesome, and since I expected at least as many people the next year, I knew that the tiny taverns if Lincoln Park would no longer hold us, so I decided to move up to the land of big bars – WRIGLEYVILLE.

TBOX4 was billed as “The last pub crawl of the 20th Century” – and I moved up the start time to 3pm. And honestly, I was a little worried that people would think that was too early to start drinking. But it wasn’t. And so I just kept making it start earlier and earlier, which is why you now have to get up before 6am!

TBOX4 in 1999: TBOX Legends Ty Sherman, Greg Goze, Tony Yaniz with Mr. Festa
TBOX4 in 1999: TBOX Legends Ty Sherman, Greg Goze, Tony Yaniz with Mr. Festa

TBOX4 began at the now-long-gone LAKEVIEW LINKS, then to Sheffield’s, and on to some of the familiar bars of Wrigley which are part of TBOX to this day, such as Redmond’s, Cubby Bear, and Sluggers. TBOX4 ended at ABNER’S YARD, which is now Mullen’s. It was a VERY HAPPY and FESTIVE event, and the first where I had my own little website to promote and put up pictures. We had about 650 people — still counted with markers by hand — but despite the success, I thought it might be the last… at that time, I thought it was likely I’d be married within the year, and that I might be moving permanently to Silicon Valley to become a dot-com millionaire. But I was just in time for the bubble…

TBOX #3 at Kincade's, 1998
TBOX #3 at Kincade’s, 1998


The Wilderness Years: TBOX 5 and TBOX6, 2000-2001

Compared to December 1999, things kind of sucked for me a year later. I was working 14-hour days for the now-struggling dot-com in the least exciting place in the world at the time, San Jose, California. The girl was gone, and I was getting to come home to Chicago less and less. But emails started to trickle in, saying… HEY FESTA, WHAT DAY IS TBOX? So the show had to go on.

TBOX #4 in 1999
TBOX #4 in 1999

I made one trip home in November to set things up and used this other new thing called “EVITE” to spread the word. Then I flew back in the day before, and we ended up topping 950 people. TBOX had started taking on a life of its own. And yes, we were still writing the numbers on everyone’s hands, which by this time was growing tedious for me. And, I had to fly back to California Monday, and leave all the memories behind, again, not knowing what the future would hold.

By TBOX time in 2001, I was now unemployed, another relationship had ended, and I had given up my Chicago apartment. I had taken a 2-month solo cross-country road trip over the summer and in the fall, I was planning a trip to Europe to further help “find myself” for a few months and use my last frequent flyer miles. Unfortunately, and it’s an absolutely true story, I bought my ticket to leave on Tuesday, 9/11/2001 – I was all packed and ready to go… but the trip never happened. By late October, I found myself house-sitting for my friend L.A. Michelle, spending my days at the Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf in Santa Monica half-heartedly looking for a new job. With the cloud of 9/11 hanging over the country, I wasn’t thinking much about TBOX, but the emails started to come in again – WHAT DAY IS TBOX?  And if I canceled it, the terrorists would win, right? So TBOX #6 was on!

TBOX #5 in 2000
TBOX #5 in 2000

I flew in Thursday night before TBOX to crash on my friend’s couch and then was going to do some planning on Friday, but at 6am I started getting calls from strangers asking about TBOX. Unbeknownst to me, it had been listed in this new web site called Metromix, with my personal cell phone number, so I spent all day answering the phone!  We ended up with over 1,200 people, and I wrote the first numbers on my friends’ hands at the Pre-TBOX Brunch we had. And it was there that having a “Low Number” first became a big deal, with my friend Lionel as the first “Number One”.  Anyway, I flew back to LA the next week, and again, had no idea if there’d be a TBOX #7…

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