education, family, reflection

Fast Food Formal

Seven weeks of home quarantine.

So much has changed in the world these past seven weeks. All our spring activities were cancelled and the calendar which was once overflowing with daily commitments is now filled with Zoom meetings, online presentations, and virtual gatherings.

We’ve had to rethink and reimagine life as it is right now and what life might be in the coming weeks and months.

My daughter, Katrina, had to finish up her junior year of college at home. While not ideal, she and her college friends have tried their best to keep in contact throughout this time. It’s been challenging to find their way in this “new normal” (which is not normal at all!), but they’ve been able to use their resilience, perseverance, and creativity in new ways.

Each year, Katrina and her friends participate in “Fast Food Formal,” a fun social event promoted by InterVarsity. The Saturday night before Finals Week, students dress up, visit a fast food restaurant together, and connect for one last hurrah before the school year ends. They always take lots of fun photos, too.

This year, all the college kids are home, scattered miles away from one another. It seemed that this event, like all the other spring activities planned, might be cancelled, too.

That was not an option for Katrina.

There could still be a Fast Food Formal. It would simply have to be redesigned in a way it had never been done before.

Katrina came to me a few weeks ago for a brainstorming session on how to play games virtually. I shared with her all the fun I had joining in the weekly Social Distancing Trivia with Jennifer Casa-Todd’s family (and friends) which sparked an in-depth conversation about thematic games, online platforms, and communication logistics. If she wanted to bring Fast Food Formal to life, it would have to be a virtual event with activities that embodied fun, fellowship, and a few surprises along the way.

Katrina and her boyfriend, Brennan, decided to lead the event as co-hosts and spent hours refining ideas, making changes based on the needs of those who might be in attendance. They created a script, shared an overview with InterVarsity’s Exec team, and then prepared for the big event with online promos on Instagram Stories and TikTok.

Fast Food Forma promo advertisement.
Online Promo

Everyone who joined in Fast Food Formal would earn points throughout the night. They were encouraged to dress up and show which fast food restaurant they had visited prior to the event. Katrina and Brennan chose to visit Bojangles, and even invited the drive-thru cashier to be a part of their memory-making!

Katrina and Brennan in the Bojangles drive-thru.
Katrina and Brennan with the Bojangles drive-thru cashier.
Ready for Fast Food Formal!

The weather was a bit uncooperative as the scattered showers quickly turned into a downpour. Katrina and Brennan set up their hosting station along the outer fringes of our garage, the steady rain as their backdrop.

Katrina and Brennan hosting Fast Food Formal.
Katrina and Brennan hosting Fast Food Formal from our garage.

The event kicked off at 6pm and the virtual room quickly filled with college students ready to join together for two hours of fun. Everyone was encouraged to bring two items: a random wrapped object to be used for a White Elephant gift exchange (that would not be given away), and a white board or notebook with a marker so they could present answers to the camera.

Students would earn points for different tasks and edit their name in Zoom to display their current point value. All points were based on the honor system.

Subway Selfies

The first game provided one point to each student who took a selfie and texted it to Katrina or Brennan. If they were dressed in their finest attire, they received an additional point. Students were also encouraged to text a photo of their fast food of choice (including the logo) for an additional point.

Students using Zoom for Fast Food Formal
Capturing photos of one another on Zoom.

Fast Food Feud

This game was inspired by Family Feud where Brennan asked a question that would have 5-8 answers. The most popular answer would receive one point and as answers became harder they would be worth more points. If someone made a guess, but did not guess one of the answers, they received a strike with no points. After a question received two strikes, all answers were revealed and the next game was played.

Questions including the following:

  • Name something that never seems to be on time.
  • Name a place you hope has a really clean public restroom.
  • In the future, name something you have that will be better than the one you currently have.
  • Name something that’s good about living alone.
  • Name a big decision men take a long time to make.
  • Name something that starts with “Queen of…”
  • Name something you would hate to find a scratch on.
  • Name something a school teacher needs a lot of.

Intermission Superlatives – Round 1

I was invited to be an Intermission Superlative judge, awarding select students an additional five points for the following attire:

  • Most Spring
  • Ready to Walk the Red Carpet
  • Most Likely to Have Worn This the Past 5 Days of Quarantine

White Elephant-Fil-A

This game was a spin-off of the traditional White Elephant game where people bring random gifts to swap – some being “regifting-worthy” and others, well, not so much! While the students raced around their house to find a gift to share (and wrap with whatever they could – even a kitchen towel!), Brennan played waiting room music until everyone had returned to their screens.

They played this game in alphabetical order, asking all participants to hold up their wrapped objects, then the first person selected a gift. The same rules applied as the traditional game: each person could choose to open a wrapped gift or steal an unwrapped gift from someone else with the person who had the gift stolen then selecting a new gift. Unlimited steals were allowed and the item stolen the most would result in additional points for the person who provided that gift to the game.

In the end, the person who had the most popular gift stolen received 10 points and as an added surprise the person who ended up with that gift received 5 additional points.

Intermission Superlatives – Round 2

While another break was provided to students, more superlative points were awarded by Katrina and Brennan for the White Elephant-Fil-A items that were shared:

  • What would you most like to eat?
  • If you could only take one item to a deserted island, what would it be?
  • What would make a great replacement for an engagement ring during a propopsal?

The best part about these Superlatives is how they related to items brought:

  • Matthew brought the only food item, an avocado, so he won for “What would you most like to eat?”
  • Gamby won a point for bringing a pack of toilet paper, a current reference to the Coronavirus challenges we all face right now (and valuable for a deserted island, too!)
  • Nathan won a point for his Gucci belt as it was the most expensive item shared during the game and could have been a replacement for an engagement ring (although difficult to wear on your finger!)

CNU Fast Facts

For this quick intermission challenge, Brennan asked a question to all participants and whoever could type and send the correct answer first in the Zoom chat would receive three points per question. This was a great game for those students who felt more comfortable typing than speaking. Brennan prompted everyone with the following: “So get ready, because you are about to be typing faster than you type in those CRNs during course registration!”

Questions included the following:

  • What building is the secret garden located in?
  • Who was the dean before Paul Trible?
  • Name one midweek muffin flavor.
  • Name one dining hall worker.
  • Which on-campus ministry hosts the best Fast Food Formal?

Taco Bell Trivia Tell

For their final game, Katrina asked trivia questions about each student who attended Fast Food Formal. One student was chosen per question and asked to keep their answer in their head. Everyone else wrote what they thought the answer would be on a whiteboard or paper. Students then displayed their answers for everyone to see.

The person who was asked the question would share their answer aloud, then anyone else who had the same answer would receive one point. Each person kept track of their own points earned, then added those points to their total score in their Zoom name for all to see.


As Fast Food Formal came to a close, there was one last surprise to share – awards! Earlier in the week, Brennan has used his laser engraver to create two wooden trophies that could be displayed on a table or shelf (but also disassembled for a flat package to mail inexpensively to the winners.) Katrina and Brennan agreed that there should be two awards – one for the most points and one for the least. In true Fast Food Formal fashion, each award included a fast food reference:

  • Winner Winner Chick-Fil-A Dinner (most points)
  • So Close… Just Like The Popeye’s Chicken Sandwich (least points)
The trophies for most and least points

Katrina and Brennan ended Fast Food Formal with a high five as the event came to a close. Everyone agreed it was the best event they had ever attended in a quarantine!

Fast Food Formal Collage

The next time you are faced with a closed door to something that means so much, I encourage you to seek an open window. Never underestimate the power of positivity, determination, and teamwork for reimagining what could be. You just never know what you might create when you are committed to making things happen!

You can do hard things.


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