If you haven’t been in the Queen City in the month of February, then you may not realize that this weekend is one of the most epic party times of the year.
Why? You may ask.
The answer is CIAA — Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association — an NCAA Division II conference of historically black institutions holds their annual basketball tournament this week.
During this weekend, thousands of visitors bring millions of dollars in revenue to the city.
But, if you’re like me and you’re more focused on fun than you are the games, you’ll be happy to know that CIAA also brings some of the largest parties to Charlotte too.
At these parties, you’ll find yourself in the company of some of the world’s most famous — Chris Brown, T.I., Diddy and Young Jeezy, to name a few.
Two years ago, I was partying in the midst of my favorite rapper of all time — the one and only Lil’ Wayne.
So, you can imagine every venue is packed out by visitors and Charlotteans alike, hoping to witness a “movie” — a party so great that it literally simulates a movie-watching experience — or maybe even a free concert.
The craziest memory I have of CIAA was three years ago. In the weeks leading up to one of the biggest parties of the year, I spent many evenings after work grabbing chicken wings and Jägerbombs at Cameo, formerly Daisy Dukes.
My roommate worked for the promoter so she was spending a lot time there, and therefore so was I.
One day, she asked me if I wanted to work as a hostess, and since she and my other best friend were both going to be working there, I figured why not? All I had to do was walk patrons buying tables to their section, walk back down and repeat.
That Thursday, I donned six inch wedges, a crop top and sheer leggings and headed to figure out the parking situation before opening night.
I could feel the excitement as I walked into the largest strip club in Charlotte, and possibly North Carolina.
A two-story, 30,000-square-foot urban strip club featuring eight stages, three bars, four bathrooms, seven poles (three reigning at 30 feet and one boasting a shower), one VIP champagne room and two VIP pits situated right in the middle of the action.
As I walked the space to get my bearings on the layout, I realized, “Maybe six inch wedges weren’t the best idea.”
But it was too late to turn back. My first table was set to arrive soon and the venue doesn’t close until 5 a.m.
As I opened the door to enter the club and begin the trek to their section, I witnessed what was an empty space transformed.
Suddenly, it was packed with thousands of people and I found myself worming my way through the crowd. I finally understood the meaning of the phrase, “packed like sardines.”
After a while, walking back and forth, up and down, became a blur.
At some point during the weekend, I literally could have caressed the back of Drake’s neck before he threw over $50,000 on stage. And yet, the allure of possibly meeting a superstar was gone, taken over by exhaustion.
I remember leaving the club as the sun came up every single day, climbing into bed and starting the process over when my alarm went off at 5 p.m.
When the weekend was over, I couldn’t feel any of my toes and I was sick as a dog, but $500 richer.
As I fell asleep on the last night, visions of strobe lights, booty dust (glitter), chicken wings and raining dollar bails danced in my head.
I even called out of work the following Monday as I sneezed and hacked the day away.
Needless to say, while witnessing the parties with a front row seat, without having to pay was crazy, I haven’t worked in any capacity during an event since. Now, I just sit on the sidelines and take it all in.
As CIAA 2016 approaches this weekend, I’m totally unprepared. I haven’t purchased any tickets to events around the city nor have I decided where I want to go.
If you’re behind like me, you should get on it. Browse a list of CIAA events, day or night, check out the featured artists that will be making an appearance and pick up the flyest outfit you can find.
Tickets and tables always sell out fast if you’re interested in the club scene, but if you’re not, there are plenty of other more low-key happenings you can turn to.
Do you have a CIAA memory you’d like to share? Already know where you plan on being for CIAA? Share it all with me!