That Netflix binge session, and whatever else occupies a college student’s nightlife during the weekend, might take on a dramatic change if the vision of event organizers of the FliHigh nightclub is realized.
The nightclub had its debut Friday at Sally Tomatoes in the Sonoma Mountain Village in Rohnert Park. It featured two DJs, who switched back and forth to supply a variety of music to the sold-out and student-run event.
By 11 p.m., the main room was filled with people dancing and some heading to the VIP lounge and bar, which was strictly enforced with a three-point checking system for age.
The nightclub was curated for anyone over 18 in Cotati and Rohnert Park, but it’s safe to assume the targeted demographic were students at Sonoma State University.
“Our main vision was for students by students,” said business and marketing major Connor Gallinetti.
Hours before the event, coordinators and volunteers were running around and making sure everything was ready for the 9 p.m. opening. Shuttle drivers, who were responsible for round-trip transportation for students and anyone wishing to be dropped off at the flagpoles at Sonoma State, were being briefed in the dense fog outside the venue.
Meanwhile, security guards were also gathering and preparing. A group of them, who were all dressed in black, stood in the parking lot and talked while the heavy fog seeped under them. John Soeters, who was part of this group, said he expected people to have fun and not get overly drunk.
“Well just after going to Sonoma State for the past four years and being a senior right now. I just noticed a lack of nightlife here especially compared to other schools,” said event coordinator Adam Loria.
The venue was fragmented into three sections, which included a main dance room, VIP lounge and bar. The atmosphere was filled with positivity and exuberance as time itched away closer to the grand opening.
“I was leading the promotion team, kind of getting the word out and letting people know about this,” said Gallinetti. “I was involved in the marketing and the promotion aspects of it. Going into Greek meetings, letting people know, flyers, social media posts, a lot of stuff like that just to get the word out and sell tickets.”
As for the DJs, they were already mixing and playing a variety of rap, hip-hop, EDM and dubstep, as well as testing their equipment. The music permeated the entire venue and two speakers were connected through to the VIP and bar area so people could hear and dance to the music in the main room.
Junior and DJ, Matt Smidt, was eager for the club to open. With an energetic demeanor, he expressed his readiness for the event and vision for seeing the crowd dance to his music set.
“We’re not afraid of what might happen, we’re about to embrace what might happen. It’s definitely a big responsibility; however, I have been in music my whole life and performing is such a thrill to be up there,” said Smidt. “It’s this sense of urgency while you’re up there but [there’s] also [a sense of] euphoria. You’re just one with the crowd.”
A few hours later, Smidt was visibly and energetically one with his crowd as he put out a slew of ballads to people screaming and dancing. A majority of people were dancing while the rest were either in the bar area or VIP lounge. The bar section was less energetic but more so filled with conversation, laughter and, of course, dancing.
“I think it’s going down pretty smoothly. I am having a great time,” said Sonoma State alumnus James Ginyard. “I appreciate this night. When I was going here [SSU] the only thing we had my freshman year was Mardi Gras.”
As the night progressed, people continued to dance. Some got on stage with the DJs, some were filmed or photographed and some were happily inebriated.
In all, the FliHigh nightclub may have the potential to embody a place for students and others alike to go for a safe, fun-filled and memorable night.