BEER PONG is a sacred tradition to anyone who has ever been to a college party. I myself have fond memories of this mythic and widely loved party game. One of the most vivid beer pong experiences I ever had was as a Cadet at a Senior Military College located in New England. At Senior Military College, we constantly would be stressed out and on edge from the Corps of Cadet's lifestyle and the rigors of higher education. As a result, many of us spent our weekends roaming the surrounding countryside looking to let loose like a marauding band of warriors with no regard for civility or decency. This often results in young naked men running around in sub-freezing temperatures screaming patriotic memes and chants.
Cadets partied like crazy people, so we thought we could handle visiting our nearby Ivy League University across state lines and throwing down with them. We hopped around from Fraternity House to Fraternity House until we found ourselves inside the lobby of a luxurious historic residence that belonged to some Asian Fraternity on campus. As we were ushered to the basement, we found ourselves immersed in a crowd of people. There was music, but everyone was cheering and roaring… we were confused! The energy was totally different from the parties at the other Frat Houses earlier. No one was dancing and even more suspect the bright white blinding fluorescent lights were ON!
Eventually, we realized what we were witnessing… a glorious and epic clash of egos and demonstration of athletic precision and skill. At this Asian Frat at an undisclosed Ivy League School in New England, we witnessed what few had seen before…
Centered in the basement was three giant rectangular ping pong tables, regulation size with netting. The partygoers were all swarmed around the tables cheering on the players who were playing beer pong… BUT WHO WERE USING PADDLES TO VOLLEY AND SERVE THE PING PONG BALL!
We were simply dumbfounded. We had played beer pong before, but this was just taking it to a whole other level. Just imagine if you were able to re-live these wonder-year moments in your favorite hometown bar though…? The thing that sticks with me from that memory was just how competitive and hype all the party-goers were, even though it was probably well into the early morning hours and everyone was certainly saucy.
Memories and fun like that stick with you for a long time. So, imagine how surprising it was to discover that with the entertaining and enterprising efforts of VA Bar Pong that I could actually experience that energy again!
WHAT IS VA BAR PONG?
So just what is VA Bar Pong and what does it have to do with crazy Ivy League college parties? More than you think!
VA Bar Pong is a Beer Pong Event Promotion Company that specializes in so-called “Bar Pong” tournaments where teams compete for cash prizes. VA Bar Pong allows bars and venues from around the great state of Virginia to provide an amazing and entertaining experience that captivates visitors and invigorates the inner athlete within!
VA Bar Pong is active in Fredericksburg, Stafford, and other surrounding areas with plans to expand to Washington D.C and Richmond Virginia!
HOW DID VA BAR PONG GET STARTED?
I recently sat down and spoke with Mark Toler, who is the Owner and CEO of VA Bar Pong to listen to their interesting story behind the origin of the business. The story starts in the early 2000s in which during this time the local college in Fredericksburg, University of Mary Washington (UMW) had a group of college students that had started a business venture called Beer Pong TV.com.
These students were looking for a way to grow and develop their brand, especially to tap into the emerging growth and popularity of social media that was blossoming at that time. This was the era of Myspace, and many entrepreneurial individuals were realizing the potential that social media would bring to marketing and advertising. (CAN YOU IMAGINE BEING EXCITED ABOUT MYSPACE? Don’t feel old yet!)
At some point, they networked with and reached out to Mark Toler, who was known for being an event organizer with UpsideDown Entertainment. Mark didn’t know what beer pong was at first, but he saw the clear business potential in a new party-game that could increase patronage for venues and which could easily be done as a side endeavor like DJing. What really motivated Mark to pursue this venture was seeing the trending popularity of poker tournaments on television and at bars. These events would bring people and would be exciting, but to Mark, they seemed to only appeal to a limited demographic. Mark wanted to bring an exciting game that would draw in a larger audience and be more accessible to the general public!
The swag of these old school promo photos
VA Bar Pong started humbly by organizing through word of mouth and passing out fliers. VA Bar Pong had its first event on June 6th, 2006 at Central Station Bar in Downtown Fredericksburg The crew would show up to the events playing with homemade plywood tables that they had fashioned themselves and would transport in the back of Mark’s Honda Civic. It wasn’t glamorous, but it was getting the job done. That spring they were able to generate a decent amount of money having performed a few events at local bars. However, the college students were nearing the completion of their degrees and were leaving after graduation. The collaboration between Beer Pong TV.com and VA Bar Pong came to an end, but Mark wasn’t ready to give up just yet.
Mark managed to get a gig doing an event in Virginia Beach. There he met Thomas Reap one of the top 5 Beer Pong World Champions. With Thomas joining the venture, Mark was able to network and connect with the organized Beer Pong events that were becoming popular in other states. Moves were being made and VA Bar Pong continued to grow…
WHY BAR PONG?
The essential idea behind VA Bar Pong is that the classic game of Beer Pong would be a quintessential element for bars! Beer pong appeals to younger crowds, and encourages increased patronage… it seemed like a no-brainer! Before jumping right into the events, Mark had to consider the legal aspect of the game being hosted at alcohol-serving establishments. Mark contacted the VABCA (Virginia Alcohol Beverage Control Authority) to determine the legality of this business idea. The VABCA responded by saying that it was illegal for a bar to host events where gambling occurred on the premises. They also expressed concern over events that encourage excessive or binge drinking. The VABCA maintained the viewpoint and belief that playing Beer Pong in public with alcohol in the cups encourages binge drinking. Therefore, VA Bar Pong, in order to maintain compliance with local laws and policies had to modify the way the game is played by playing with only water in the cups.
The question is if they were drunk when they made the logo because it's missing an "A"...
This is also partially why the name of the brand is ‘BAR’ Pong vs ‘BEER’ Pong. Mark Toler explicitly states that BAR Pong is its own legal variant of a popular party game that can be played in public venues like local restaurants. According to Mark, maintaining compliance with Virginia’s strict alcohol laws was the biggest hurdle to overcome. There was one time when VA Bar Pong was hosting an event at a bar in Alexandria VA for Cinco de Mayo. Halfway through the event, Mark says the venue owner came up to him complaining that a regulatory official from the VABCA was there and stating the event had to be shut down. Mark approached the official and asked what the problem was. The VABCA official insisted that Beer Pong is illegal to play in bars. Mark smiled and calmly replied, “We are not playing Beer Pong, we are playing BAR Pong”.
This infuriated the VABCA official who asked what was in the cups. The official went over to the table during the middle of a game, and in a crowd surrounded by people picked up a cup and sipped it. Everything was silent, and all eyes were on the official. Nervously he realized it was water, placed the cup back and left the bar without saying another word. Everyone broke into laughter and the event continued on without issue.
WHAT WERE SOME MAJOR CHALLENGES STARTING & RUNNING VA BAR PONG?
Besides the issues with the VABCA, there were other challenges VA Bar Pong had to overcome. One of the biggest challenges was developing the official rules for the tournaments… including the “elbow rule” controversy. For those who are unfamiliar, the elbow rule in beer pong is the stipulation that players when aiming and shooting can not hover their elbow over the table and must effectively aim from behind their side of the table. This rule had to be enforced because VA Bar Pong realized that people who were taller had an unfair advantage in games against shorter people… and with prized cash money at stake, you have to balance the odds.
Mark remembers that at first, some people didn’t like the more formal and organized aspects to VA Bar Pong. “It’s definitely more organized and less chaotic than your typical Beer Pong game, but just as fun, if not MORE fun because what’s at stake…”.
VA Bar Pong prides itself on providing professional, fun, casual events. None of the events encourage drinking- you can sign up and play without drinking a single drop of alcohol! The hype is in the competition and the MONEY!
Some people complained to Mark that officializing and organizing beer pong into an organized athletic activity like with the Bar Pong World Championships is silly and ruining the fun in the game. However, those individuals were not realizing that there was a lot of money driving the creation and growth of this new industry that motivated people to take Bar Pong seriously as a career. (Yes, I know how absurd it sounds that there are people out there who are seriously professional beer pong champions for a living.)
With all this growth came a lot of stress. Mark was trying to develop the brand outside of Fredericksburg and more into Northern Virginia. It was time for VA Bar Pong to go from local to regional. Mark had to keep meeting with bar and restaurant owners, many who were hesitant of trying the idea because of liability concerns. Mark says it was definitely an additional challenge having to demonstrate to venue owners that VA Bar Pong wasn’t some free for all partying, but actually a fun, competitive, and well-organized event.
Now everyone is rushing to get in on the action!
MOST MEMORABLE MOMENT WITH VA BAR PONG:
Mark says the most memorable moment working with VA Bar Pong so far is the fact that he has been able to help participate, organize, and send people to World Bar Pong Championships in Atlantic City and Las Vegas. “Those are unique and lifelong experiences, even if it’s just beer pong. It’s awesome to be part of something like that.”.
VA Bar Pong is especially proud to have sponsored teams who through trial and error were able to eventually win the World Series of Beer Pong. VA Bar Pong says they are grateful to have had the opportunities to do events all over the East Coast!
“Nothing is more pleasurable than traveling, meeting people, networking and socializing,” Mark smiles. “VA Bar Pong allows people to re-live their college memories and feel young again. When you see how happy people are at an event, you know it’s worth it. A lot of people are stressed out and just want to relax and have a good time like the good ol’ days.”
This can be you on a Friday night! Doesn't this look fun???
WHAT CAN WE EXPECT FROM VA BAR PONG IN THE FUTURE:
VA Bar Pong is currently revamping its brand to take things to the next level. In the future fans can expect to see the launch of an official product line including Shirts, Hoodies, and custom Pong Tables! Mark Toler eventually hopes to franchise the brand over the next few years to help it reach even more regions around the country. Mark says he sees the rise of the next college generation stepping up, and hopes they will be interested in taking over the steering wheel of VA Bar Pong.
“I’m getting too old for this shit” as Mark says simply. If you are currently a college student in the DMV and are interested in getting involved with VA Bar Pong then contact Mark at the information below, who knows maybe you can be the next CEO!
HOW DO I GET INFORMATION ON VA BAR PONG EVENTS?
If you want to know when the next VA Bar Pong event is, and if you want to keep supporting VA Bar Pong and its mission to provide wholesome fun to Virginia Bar's all over, then be a fan and follow them on their Facebook page!
For booking information, prices and rates, and event schedules, please visit the VA Bar Pong website at: