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Kinder Fair

Today was Kinder Fair!  It’s like a mini State Fair for all of the kinders at Cyan’s school.  Super cutie patootie totes adorbs!

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First, all the kids had to bring a project to display in the classroom.  There were lots of cool things on exhibit: paper maché pigs, painted bird houses, rice crispy treats, two race tracks, a magnet exhibit, eggs from a chicken, fresh garden produce.

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Cyan shared her rock collection.  She’s been collecting rocks pretty much since she could walk.  Shiny rocks, volcanic rock, big rocks, little rocks.  She’s what you might call a rock star.

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After we set up the project, all four kinder classes headed out to the playground to sing for us parents.

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They sang, Old MacDonald…

Five Little Ducks…

and Teddy Bear Square Dance

Then it was time for the fair activities.  Allan and I led a mighty group of three around the fair.  Each kid received an activity card and satchel.  We made our way around to each activity where the kids collected prizes.

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We started with Lucky Duck and Bean Bag Toss

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Then we stopped for a snack and there was plenty:  nachos, popcorn, Orange Julius, and snow cones!

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Next up we moved on to the ABC Walk and Gunny Sack Races

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Sweetie ate it during both the gunny sack and horse racing:)  She also got hurt when someone fell on her. :(

The last activity was facepainting.  Cyan chose a dolphin and Connor chose Mickey Mouse while Suri looked on.

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Cyan hung out A LOT with her friend Michael (raises eyebrow).  But at least he came to check on her when she got hurt.

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We had so much fun at Kinder Fair!

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Hermanitos: HHM Pt. 3

This is a three part post.  Part 1 lays the foundation for the articles.  Parts 2 and 3 are features on some outstanding Burquenos.

Original article:

Early mentoring leads to success in STEM careers

In the fall of 2001, a group of University of New Mexico engineering students began a mentoring program that would change the trajectory of their lives and the lives of so many other young Hispanic students. The program was called Hermanitos and was part of the outreach effort by the Hispanic Engineering and Science Organization (HESO) at UNM’s School of Engineering. Benito Martinez III was HESO’s Outreach Chair that year and wanted to build on some of the work that HESO’s President Oscar Quinonez had started. As a Highland High School alumnus, Benito knew some of the faculty at Highland and leveraged those relationships to gain access to Hispanic youth in hopes of encouraging them to attend college, study engineering, and purse a technology career. Two people that were instrumental in creating the program were Gabby Duran, Activities Director, and math teacher, Marcos Martinez. Marcos Martinez has continued to champion Latino education. He has been recognized by President Obama for his website which includes math courses taught in English and Spanish.

The Hermanitos program started simply. The college students would bring pizza and talk about going to UNM. They then began tutoring the high school students and helping them get ready to take the ACT. The HESO members kept coming back week after week and the group grew from a few students to a classroom full. They also started inviting the high schoolers to their HESO meetings at UNM and even invited them to travel to engineering conferences. They helped with homework and even offered to help pay for the Hermanitos to take the ACT.

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Lilian Casias-Acosta was one of the high school students in the Hermanitos program. She says that the program changed her whole perspective. Her dad was an electrician, but her parents didn’t go to college and didn’t know what the ACT was. She was excited to see girls who spoke Spanish and studied engineering; it didn’t seem like such a far off goal anymore. When she had initially talked to guidance counselors about college, they suggested she try CNM and choose a field of study that was more suitable. According to Lilian, when the HESO kids came, their “expectations were high and we could relate to them. They were from the same area, and we could relate to their lives.”

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Benito had similar experience before entering college. He and his friends had older cousins help them register and they all said they’d apply together. “There was a lot of hesitancy, a lot of doubt, and we wondered how were we going to pay for it?” These were some of the reasons he felt it was important to bring others along. The HESO students made sure to talk to the Hermanitos about financial aid, scholarships, loans, and grants. Some of the students were undocumented at the time which posed unique challenges. The HESO students introduced the Hermanitos to other on-campus resources like the College Enrichment Program.

Benito’s interest in engineering started at Highland. He took computer aided drafting classes and decided, “This is something I want to do.” He liked the fact that someone might come up to you and say, “I need this drawn, can you come up with it?” At UNM, he was introduced to different engineering fields. At the time, math was easier than English, but he felt a little discouraged having to start with introductory classes. His friend, Luis Gutierrez, also a HESO member, reached out and said he had been in the same spot. In HESO, everyone was quick to take each other under their wing.

The sense of community within HESO was strong. The students spent a lot of time together; not only in class and doing homework, but traveling to conferences and just hanging out. They got involved and met professionals who helped guide them into their careers. Benito’s mentor, David Burress, kept in touch regularly through email and even came to his graduation. Lilian recalls that people like Benito and Luis had such a positive influence in her life. Even though they don’t see each other all of the time, they still keep in touch through Facebook and occasional HESO reunions.

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The foundation built through outreach programs like Hermanitos was equally strong. Benito achieved Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Chemical Engineering. While in college, he interned with the USDA in Philadelphia, at General Motors in Shreveport, LA, and at Intel in Albuquerque. He has worked as an engineer at Intel and is currently at Sandia National Labs. Lilian worked at UNM’s Multi-Agent, Robotics, Hybrid, and Embedded Systems (MARHES) Lab. She recently completed her Master’s degree in Electrical Engineering and is currently working on her Ph.D.

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To this day, participants of the Hermanitos program continue to mentor others and embody the “pay it forward” attitude. Benito recalls a friend of his, Jose Bonilla, who was a student at Rio Grande High School. He was interested in engineering. Benito continued to serve as a mentor for Jose often exchanging emails and texts. Benito was happy to attend Jose’s graduation and see him get a graduate degree. He later helped Jose get a job at Intel. Benito doesn’t feel like he has to help others, but he’s always willing because he knows there were others who helped him and had such a positive impact on his life.

Lilian also continues to give back. She says that she became President of the Photonics Society because even though they were doing outreach, she didn’t feel like they were using the money they had in the right ways. Lilian wanted to continue outreach programs in schools that aren’t traditionally exposed to math and science. Many of the efforts were aimed at technology charter schools. Lilian wants to do both – go to technology schools, but also reach out to schools with high minority populations.

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Benito echoes that sentiment. “That’s why we picked Highland; they had a hard enough time finding bilingual teachers. Even counselors, they were limited to what (resources) they could provide.” He thought, “I can be their influence.” Lilian agrees that it is “a chain of people, even if it’s one person, you make a difference. One person that wouldn’t have gone to college.” Some people assume Lilian likes school. She says, “It’s not that I like (to keep going to) school, it’s (about) the outcome.”

Possibly the most influence these former HESO members will ever have, are with their own hijitos. Benito has two sons and started a Lego Club at their school. His older son loves baseball, but knows that he can’t play if his homework isn’t done. He’s proud that his sons know that school is their number one priority. Lilian is a new mom. Her husband Miguel, also a former HESO member with a Master’s degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Michigan, fully supports her pursuing her education and they both want to encourage their young son to achieve education through hard work.

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It’s clear that mentoring young Hispanics and guiding them toward STEM careers is beneficial for our community. There are so many opportunities for the business community and individual professionals to get involved in formal mentoring programs to keep the chain going. Consider finding your own “hermanito” or “hermanita” through some of these great programs:

– OASIS Intergenerational Tutoring 505-884-4529
– Albuquerque Reads 505-764-3730
– Junior League of Albuquerque http://www.jlabq.org/
– Zia Family Focus Center 505-260-6106

Published article:

Early mentoring leads to success in STEM careers

In fall 2001, a group of UNM engineering students began a mentoring program that would change the path of many young Hispanic students.  The program was called Hermanitos and was part of the outreach effort by the Hispanic Engineering and Science Organization.  Benito Martinez was one of the founding members of the program and Lilian Casias-Acosta was one of the first Hermanitos.

The college students helped with homework, ACT prep, financial aid, and encouraged the Hermanitos to study engineering.  Lilian recalls being excited to see girls who spoke Spanish and studied engineering.  “Their expectations were high, they were from the same area and we could relate to them.”

Benito had similar experience before entering college.  He and his friends had older cousins help them register and they all said they’d apply together.  “There was a lot of hesitancy, a lot of doubt, and we wondered how were we going to pay for it?”  These were some of the reasons he felt it was important to bring others along.

Benito has a Master’s degree in Chemical Engineering.  He has been an engineer at Intel and is currently at Sandia National Labs.  Lilian recently completed her Master’s degree in Electrical Engineering and is currently working on her Ph.D.

Let’s follow their example and find a “hermanito” or “hermanita” to mentor and guide toward a STEM career.

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Hispanic Heritage Month: Part 1

This is a three part post.  Part 1 lays the foundation for the articles.  Parts 2 and 3 are features on some outstanding Burquenos.

For the last three years, I’ve been a member of the Hispanic Heritage Committee (HHC).  It was cool to see that my company really started to embrace diversity and inclusion  since it’s always been something very important to me.  I’ve enjoyed the oppoprtunity to participate in events that promote D&I and community investment including Pride, women’s leadership, military and verterans, Special Olympics, multigenerational and multicultural events.

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This year our HHC partnered with Albuquerque Business First to create a special edition calendar of events during Hispanic Heritage Month, September 15 – October 15.  There was an ask for someone to write some articles for the publication.  If you’re here, you probably know I like to write.  But I haven’t published anything since the good ol’ days of Taft Middle School where I was an editor of The Taft Dissertation.  Unless, you count the time I was mentioned in an academic article, which I don’t?.  Yup, I’ve been a nerd since 1993.  That layout business was no joke back in the day.

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I was asked to write articles that would be relevant to the broad community and related to Hispanics serving in our community.  As I walked out to the parking lot, the ideas started to flow based on the topics we had just discussed with regard to our press conference key note speaker.  Art, education, the military.  I immediately thought of an event that Allan has been participating in recently called Art Fight.  I decided my first article would cover Art Fight, its organizers, and its participants.  For the second article, I wanted to focus on Hispanics in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) careers.  I remembered Allan told me stories about a pretty cool mentoring program that some of his friends had participated in while in college.  They say write what you know and I guess it worked out that these things had recently connected (in my mind anyway and this is my mind).

In my free time (?) I interviewed three artists, two engineers, and a veteran over coffee and let me tell you, they all have fascinating stories.  Part of me just wanted to listen instead of trying to capture notes.  In the end, I had a 2000+ word article and a 1200+ word article and lots of media (pictures).  After editing as best I could, I submitted them knowing they might get edited further.  My committee memebers were really pleased with the submissions.

I was a little bummed when the publisher folks came back and said we would only have room if the articles were edited down to 225 words each and one picture, but I understood the purpose of the publication was to promote all of the wonderful events and organizations that celebrate HHM.  In a matter of hours, I widdled my articles down to 225 words.  It felt impossible to say anything in that amount of space, but I gave it my best and most basic I could.

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I met the publisher contact last week and she said her reporters could have never done that.  I took that as a compliment.  She also wanted my contact info.  Maybe someday I’ll get to write again, but until then, there is always my crazy blog.  Which brings me to the point of this post.  Since the articles were a bit watered down, I wanted to post them here on my blog, not because I’m particularly proud of the writing, but because my friends have some pretty amazing stories to share.  Thanks to James, Celeste, Allan, Benito, Lilian, and Andres for allowing me to share your story.  And special thanks to thank Allan for having friends with cool stories, editing my work, supporting all of my crazy ideas and being my best friend.

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Art Fight – HHM Pt. 2

This is a three part post.  Part 1 lays the foundation for the articles.  Parts 2 and 3 are features are some outstanding Burquenos.

Original article:

Art Fight showcases local talent while building community

In The Art of War, Sun Tzu said “Move only if there is a real advantage to be gained.”  If that holds true, it is great to see so many young Hispanic artists on the move in New Mexico.  I recently had the chance to sit down with a few up and coming talented artists who are making moves in the art community at an exciting local event called Art Fight.

James Montoya, is the creator of Art Fight, a three hour, live art competition hosted by Tractor Brewing Co. in the historic Wells Park neighborhood near downtown Albuquerque.  The rules of engagement are pretty simple.  Each artist pays a modest entry fee, brings a blank canvas and supplies.  Art Fight has a different theme for each night and the artists have three hours to create a piece associated with that theme.  They can use any size canvas and create with any medium.  At the end of the evening, each artist’s work is auctioned off and the winner gets the pot of all of the other participant’s entry fees.  Previous themes have included breast cancer awareness, hip hop, and animals.  Some of the Art Fights have been charitable events with proceeds going toward local causes, including a recent event which benefited People’s Anti-Cruelty Association.

James came up with the idea for Art Fight while attending a similar event in Phoenix.  He wanted to create a friendly competition because he believes it brings out the best in the artists.  What really sets Art Fight apart from bigger venues is the voting system that selects a winner.  During Art Fight, Tractor patrons receive a ticket for each beer they purchase and can then vote for their favorite piece with their ticket.  Drinking local craft beer and watching amazing artists paint is what I call win-win.

Ask any of the participating artists and they will tell you that while winning Art Fight is the ultimate goal, the best part is meeting other artists.  The building of the art community is what James is most proud of.  Growing up in Santa Fe near Canyon Road, James was exposed to a lot of international artists in school.  While Santa Fe is renowned for its art scene, it is not always the easiest to break into.  Galleries there typically want to feature artists that are established with a reputation and multiple shows under their belt.  Art Fight gives up-and-coming artists a venue to show their talent.

The benefits of this type of event are plenty.  Art Fight provides more opportunities for people to see each artist’s work.  It also introduces art to people that might not normally go to a gallery or consider themselves to be art connoisseurs.  Holding these events in a bar makes them more accessible to the Duke City’s working class.  You can come enjoy some of the best beer in Albuquerque’s growing brewery scene and buy an original piece of art.  Most people don’t normally get to see the creative process in person, so this event is unique and well worth making the trip down to Tractor.  It gives people a chance to see what goes into creating something.  This event is truly about building community and connections.  Of course, the benefit for the artist is getting their name out and having people who might not normally be interested in their art take an interest, and maybe even purchase it, or at least get their contact info for a commission.  Painting is usually a very solitary activity, with the artist isolated in a studio. Art Fight is a great way to build camaraderie between local artists and expand their network in the art world.

An added benefit is that it gives these artists the chance to earn money.  Galleries will sometimes ask for up to sixty percent of the sale for a piece and don’t always do much to promote the artworks.  These artists invest a lot of time and money into their craft.  James believes it’s important for them to be recognized for their talent.

Art Fight isn’t as easy as these artists make it look.  As with any competition, the level of talent can be a little intimidating.  The three hour time limit also forces many artists out of their comfort zone.  The short amount of time can make painting a little more stressful, but it also makes it fun.  The artists try to focus on what they can do, rather than what they can’t and know that it’s meant to be a good time.  For James, the challenge of organizing the event, getting entertainment lined up, and promotion can be daunting, but the fruits of his labor are surely worth the effort when he sees everyone networking and the art community growing.

Each of the artists I spoke with took a different journey to get where they are and it’s incredibly exciting to hear where they’re going with their art.  The one thing they have in common is that they all started practicing art as a kid.  As a child, James had participated in the Spanish Colonial Arts Society Youth Market.  He asked for an airbrush when he was 10 or 11 years old after seeing airbrushed t-shirts at the New Mexico State Fair.  He attended The University of New Mexico to pursue an art degree and began attending art markets.  James’ art is inspired by women and “the way they have an almost indescribable power conveyed through a certain look or glance.”  He also works with ideas of space and time.  It allows him to explore “traveling at the speed of light; what that means in terms of light, color, and reality.”  He tries to challenge himself with his newer work and doesn’t do as much in terms of personally inspired themes.  He’s found that those aren’t as easy to sell and are sometimes harder to part with.  James is conscious of the fact that you have to know your audience depending on the venue and art form.  What may be appropriate pricing and placement for a gallery might not work in a bar.  James paints, does print work, and creates purses and jewelry.  He recently participated in the 64th Traditional Spanish Market and won a prize for a purse he created with his mother.  James spends most of his time creating art and works part time at Masks y Mas where his creative efforts are supported and encouraged.

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James believes there are a lot of super creative, talented and under rated artists in the community that don’t always know how to get their art out in front of the right people.  He encourages these up and coming artists to come paint live at Art Fight.  James believes that if he shares everything he knows with other artists, they will share what they know and they can all learn from each other.

Celeste Garcia, also known as Spoken, is one of the up and coming artists who has benefited from Art Fight.  Like James, she’s always considered herself an artist, but really began to take it seriously about five years ago; prior to that she mostly worked on black book sketching and graffiti.  Celeste’s stepfather is also an artist.  Growing up in Albuquerque, she often found herself taking any art class she could.  Her favorite medium is drawing, but she’s found that most people are more interested in paintings.  With the help of folks like James, she has started to do more shows and network in the art community.  Celeste feels that the community is really starting to boom and she appreciates all of the motivation and support she has received.  She has felt welcomed with open arms and appreciates that everyone is treated like equals.  In general, art can be a tricky scene to break into, especially for someone like Celeste, who describes herself as a little on the shy side.  She has felt invited in and knows that everyone wants to see each other succeed.  Celeste considers her art to be multimedia and creates based on whatever speaks to her.  Starting off, she felt discouraged by galleries in Santa Fe that said you need to find your one thing.  She didn’t want to limit herself to just one thing and knows that not everyone is going to like what you create.

Celeste is currently working on a clothing line called Squish ink with some partners including Josh Wilkinson.  She also has some works featured at El Chante Casa de Cultura here in Albuquerque.  Celeste is staying busy with commissions, working full-time at T-Mobile US, going to the gym, and spending time with family and friends.  She knows that if she wants something, she’s going to have to work hard for it and push herself.  It might mean being tired, but she knows it’s worth it.  She thinks about taking time off, but just can’t.  She’s too motivated and blown away by what she has accomplished so far.  Celeste has a dream to open her own gallery and shop, where artists and crafters can have a place to sell their work.

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As an artist, Celeste feels that emotion plays a big part in her work.  She’s a Cancer and says that how she feels makes a huge difference from what colors she uses to what she creates.  She used to do more graffiti art, but has “moved a little more to realism and the natural world incorporating some abstract art.”  Celeste enjoys experimenting as an artist, for example, she’s exploring magnetic graffiti.  She enjoys seeing the changes artists make over time and loves to challenge herself.  As a result, she has several half-done projects, but loves being able to go in different directions if she likes.

Allan Armenta, whose artist name is Alarment, is another local artist that has recently started participating in Art Fight.  Growing up on Bloomfield, NM, Allan enjoyed creating stories through drawing and sculpting.  His interest increased as he grew older and was influenced heavily by comic books and cartoons.  Allan excelled in art throughout school and knew he wanted to pursue art in college.  He attended The University of New Mexico and earned a Bachelor’s of Fine Arts degree with an emphasis in Art Studio.  It wasn’t until attending UNM that Allan was introduced to painting and computer animation.  His interest in technology led to Allan obtaining a Master’s of Business Administration degree from UNM with a concentration in Management Information Systems.  His keeps busy as a Systems Analyst for the City of Albuquerque and enjoys introducing art to his two young children.  Allan continued to be creative after graduation, branching out into sculptural art and focusing on urban vinyl art toys.  There isn’t much of a market for that locally, so Allan began participating in shows across the country in places like New York, San Francisco, Dallas, and Santa Fe.  He’s also had works on display in Italy, London and Singapore.  Participating in Art Fight has allowed Allan to get back into painting.

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Allan considers his art to be abstract with some elements of realism in it.  His art has been described as having an organic feel with sexual undertones.  He is influenced at times by dreams and likes to invoke feelings from dreams in the abstract spaces he creates.  Allan finds the local art scene to be very diverse, with some artists tending to have a more traditional, New Mexican style.  He noted that “several local artists have Native American or Hispanic styles while incorporating pop culture ideals.”

Art Fights have been happening in Albuquerque for about a year and the momentum is clearly building.  For the upcoming one year anniversary, James plans to host an invitational for artists that have previously participated.  He also wants to get some additional sponsors so that none of the artists have to pay an entry fee.  James has been in talks with producers to have a reality show based on Art Fight.  Other ideas include doing a traveling show or regional competition in LA, Phoenix, Denver and Albuquerque.  This is great exposure for Albuquerque.

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While not all of the participating artists are Hispanic, it’s great to see our young Hispanic artists showcasing their talent and equally exciting to see the art community in Albuquerque starting to thrive.  Art Fight creates a venue for artists of all backgrounds and talent levels. It gives artists valuable exposure and practice.  Even though it’s a competition, make no mistake, this is a friendly fight.  While there may be a winner of each Art Fight, the larger community wins by connecting people and sharing art.

Printed article:

Art Fight showcases local talent while building community

Albuquerque has some talented Hispanic artists who are making moves in the art community at an exciting local event called Art Fight.

James Montoya is the creator of Art Fight, a live art competition hosted by Tractor Brewing Co.  The rules of engagement are pretty simple.  Each artist pays a small entry fee, brings a blank canvas and supplies.  Art Fight has a different theme for each night and the artists have three hours to create a piece associated with that theme.  At the end of the evening, each artist’s work is auctioned off and a winner is declared. Some of the Art Fights have been charitable events with proceeds going toward local causes, including a recent event which benefited People’s Anti-Cruelty Association.  During Art Fight, Tractor patrons receive a ticket for each beer they purchase and can then vote for their favorite with their ticket.

Ask any of the participating artists and they will tell you that while winning Art Fight is the ultimate goal, the best part is connecting with other artists.  The building of the art community is what James is most proud of.  Allan Armenta and Celeste Garcia, known as Alarment and Spoken respectively, are two artists that have recently competed.  Come see these incredibly talented artists paint at the next Art Fight!

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Back to the Future

As I write this, Back to the Future Day is 42 days, 14 hours, 10 minutes away.  That’s right, October 21, 2015 is less than two months away.  I thought I better write this post in case anyone wants to throw a sick BTTF party.  Like we did last year.  Let’s go back…to the future!

For the last three years, I’ve been tasked with decorations for our company summer event.  IDK why.  Maybe it’s because I’m a creative.  My friend D is tasked with games because she’s a FUN!  The first year we did a playgound theme.  This year we did a county fair theme.  But last year, that was a tricky one.  How do you plan a Back to the Future Party?  With a little help from Pinterest, the jigga-watts start flowing.

First, you have to invite your guests and let them know they’re in for a HEAVY time.  Costumes and characters are encouraged.  Marty, Doc, Biff, George, Lorraine, Jennifer, the whole gang’s invited.

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Easiest thing to start with is the menu because no matter what time you’re from, everybody loves to eat.

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And for a very futuristic dessert, you can’t go wrong with Dippin’ Dots!

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Be sure your DJ has songs from the wild west, classics from the 50s, killer 80s tunes and you know, future hits…from 2015:)

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We sectioned our party into four “times”.  Marty McFly started out in 1985 just jammin’ our to some Huey Lewis and the News.

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Then he went back to 1955 and rocked out at the Enchantment Under the Sea Dance.  Don’t forget your Save the Clock Tower collection can.

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In Back to the Future II, Marty travels to 2015.  I know, right.  Much likes the movie makers, my 2015 is just colorful and weird.  But there’s a hover board and a DeLorean so it’s all good.

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In the final episode of the trilogy (which I haven’t seen in it’s entirety!), Marty goes to 1885.  Beware of outlaws like Buford “Mad Dog” Tannen.

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Then you just need some finishing touches like a flex capacitor, lightening strikes, Goldie Wilson campaign posters, and an almanac.

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Now you’re ready to party like it’s 1985, 1955, 2015, 1885, umm…you’re ready to party!

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