Flying Under the Radar: Surprise! Shopping Mall Flash Mob

Photo of Eric Scott, a blogger for the Pioneer Press from Lincolnshire.
Provided photo of Eric Scott, a Pioneer Press community blogger.

So it took me several decades, but I finally participated in my first flash mob.

Ok, maybe I ought to back up several steps and explain how I wound up having lunch one minute and then making a bad attempt at the “Carlton Dance,” synchronized with dozens of others in front of surprised diners in the food court at Hawthorn Mall in Vernon Hills.

The creative juice behind the eye-catching, public rhythm nation actually comes from a non-descript building in a Buffalo Grove industrial park in the form of sweat… lots of sweat. The Sweat Shop, located at 358 Lexington Dr., is relatively new exercise and workout facility run by Matt Kuhlman, who wears many hats as owner, exercise trainer, comedian and creative force behind the unique way the The Sweat Shop looks to stand out among its competition. As my wife, who is a member, likes to remind me – it’s not really a traditional gym, it doesn’t really run regular exercise classes, but it engages its members in ways that makes you want to sweat and have fun. It’s hard to explain, but watching a recent Wacky Workout Wednesday live report on the WGN Morning News may paint a better picture of what can happen when coming through the front door.

In promoting his business, Kuhlman has also managed to create a strong local buzz by leveraging social media and just good old word of mouth that highly paid chief marketing officers would kill for.  Some activities have involved fundraising for local charities and others have roped-in members, along with their friends and relatives, for high profile fun. That brings us to the mall.

With a little persuasion to suddenly add “flash mobber” to my bucket list, I joined the crowd outside the mall for our “pre-flash” meeting. Under an overcast sky, dozens of eager flash mobbers, from teens to grandparent-looking types, huddled under the red “70” square that’s fixed to a light pole in the mall’s far north parking lot.  In the center of this circle, Matt ran through what would happen, explained that we all had to follow his lead because we couldn’t blast music and showed everyone step-by-step how the four-minute flash mob appearance would go.

You really had to appreciate the organization that went in to pulling so many people from all walks of life into doing something that many had never done before. This was going to be way different than running up the down escalator with your friends when you were 12.

At the specified time, we all gathered in the food court, not sure of how things would go – and then it happened. The full video is available at this YouTube link, and I can honestly say, it was a great time.  It was all about fun, and with careful planning, did not encroach on being a disturbance or anything close to being offensive – this was done the right way.

Of course, the best was when we got to boast to friends and relatives afterwards with sudden conversation drops like, “Yeah, we just did a flash mob at the mall. We totally live on the edge!”

Eric Scott is a Pioneer Press community contributor and former TV newscast producer now working in corporate communications. He serves on the Board of Directors for the Lincolnshire Lightning Travel Soccer Club and on the Stevenson High School Foundation’s Communications Committee. Interested in writing or blogging for the Pioneer Press? Email richard@aggrego.com. Submissions also can be made here.

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