Microsoft Signature Event 2014 – Recap

Every year, Microsoft puts on a huge event to celebrate the Pacific Northwest culture. They invite interns from all locations: Puget Sound, California, and Fargo to name a few. Throughout the internship, they keep everything about this event a secret, except the date. Everyone talks and speculates about what the event could be, and what the main act is. In the past, the signature events have been:

YearLocationPerformanceIntern Gift
2011Woodland Park – Seattle, WADave Matthews BandXbox 360 w/ Kinect
2012Gas Works Park – Seattle, WAYoung the GiantSeries 9 Premium Ultrabook
2013Boeing Factory / Paine Field – Everett, WAMacklemore, Deadmau5Surface Pro
2014?????????

 

Based on past years,  this was certainly the date that everyone had marked in their calendar. On July 16, 2014, it was time to experience the Signature Event for 2014.

Lining Up Isn’t That Straightforward

I left the office around 3:30pm to join my friends in line at Building 26, the meeting point for Redmond Campus interns. By the time I arrived, there was already a crowd that went from the building entrance to the street corner – about a quarter of a mile long. I join the line with my friends and wait patiently for 5:00pm, when buses leave campus to go to this mystery location. After waiting an hour and a half in the sun, the line starts finally moving, and we board the bus. We receive VIP cards for the event, that give us a hint about where we’re going or what we should expect – but of course these hints were too ambiguous for anyone to figure out. The event staff were wearing T-shirts that said “STEP RIGHT UP”. Ok… so are we going to a carnival? A place that has games?

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Turns out that showing up an hour early was a good idea. As the bus was leaving campus, we drove past all of the interns who were waiting in line. The line was at least a mile and a half long, and stretched all the way out to the entrance of campus. On the bus ride, we were all fighting another line… Seattle rush hour traffic – of course. It felt like a scene from Orange is the New Black, where Piper Chapman kept asking guards where they were taking her in a prison vehicle, and not getting a response. We had no idea where we were going; we just knew we were headed southbound. Halfway there, they announced that we were going to the Washington State Fair. Perfect! I was most likely not able to attend the Indiana State Fair, so why not let Microsoft bring me the local state fair early?

We’re Going to the Carnival!

Upon arrival, we were welcomed by the sounds of University of Washington’s Husky Marching Band and the scent of state-fair type food. Beer battered chicken wings, elephant ears, and deep fried cookie dough. Microsoft had rented out the fairgrounds to give us a carnival. So my guess about playing games was accurate. Several steps later, and our group ran into friends who were holding Surface Pro 3s. They informed us that they had to win it through a carnival game. So much was at stake now – our group had little over an hour to play carnival games (where the probability of winning was around 30%) to win an $800 item. Long story short, throwing rings around bottles or frisbees around duckling heads isn’t as easy as it looks. (Bing “how to win at carnival games” and you’ll see what I mean).

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The Performance Was In The Cards

Long story short, my friend and I didn’t win at any carnival game. After several frustrated games, we gave up and grabbed all of the food we could get, and took a seat at the stage. It was time to find out who would be performing! In years past, it’s been popular bands typically from the Seattle area. We found out that things were “different this year”; we would have a magic act instead of a concert!

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When I was very young, I remember seeing a magician on television performing an act of making a person disappear. For some reason, this made me become scared of magic for years. My father would help me over this fear by performing corny magic tricks, such as blowing into a paper towel to make a hole in the center – he really ripped it up only when I wasn’t looking. After a couple of years of this magic conditioning, I finally attempted to watch a magic show with my father. It was a magician named David Blaine, and it was his show that got me into liking magic acts again.

Turns out, that David Blaine was actually going to perform right in front of us! He’s a magician known for his levitational skills, card tricks, and mind-blowing stunts.

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Blaine performed a regurgitation act, several card tricks, mind telepathy, and a stunt with an icepick (I’ll let you figure that one out). Afterwards, he stated that he had a finale for us, but needed to “concentrate” for it. He invited his close friends on stage for a mentalist show, and an interesting performance from a French magician, Yann Frisch.

This was Frisch’s act – found on a YouTube video posted in 2013:

A Breathtaking Finale

Once the two sub-acts were complete, attention was focused on David Blaine again towards the aft of the seating area. It was time for one of Blaine’s famous tricks: holding breath under water for a long period of time. Blaine was able to last 12 minutes and 24 seconds underwater without any access to oxygen. I always thought on television that it was rigged, but I got some pretty good views for myself on how it would be impossible to cheat in this trick.

 

As Blaine emerged from the water, he was greeted with thunderous applause. At the same time, the DJ kicked on some music, and fireworks were lit from every angle at the park – a great way to end the night.

One More Thing…

Before we left, the Intern coordinators came back on the stage and announced our intern gift this year – we were all receiving an Xbox One! Looks like I’m going to be a next generation gamer! I’m switching over from the Wii & Playstation 3 over to Xbox for the first time. If you have any recommendations on how to get started, I’d love to hear your ideas in the Comments section!

 

YearLocationPerformanceIntern Gift
2014Washington State Fairgrounds – Puyallup, WADavid Blaine, Yann Frisch

Xbox One w/ Kinect

Surface Pro 3, Arc Mouse & Keyboard Pair, and/or Nokia Lumina via winning Carnival Games

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