For a few days at least, Sponge Bob left his home in Bikini Bottom to visit Marco. This past weekend saw the kickoff of the new Nickelodeon Getaway weekends at the Marco Island Marriott Beach Resort.
These family-oriented packages allow kids to get up close and personal with SpongeBob SquarePants and Dora the Explorer, work with their parents on Nickelodeon-themed arts and crafts projects, and have the chance of getting “slimed,” which — in the Nickelodeon world — is something to look forward to.
“This is about getting families together, and making lifetime memories,” said Marriott General Manager Rick Medwedeff.
“Nickelodeon’s activities get the parents involved, too. The kids just love this. I saw one little girl who drew a picture for Dora the Explorer. She got so excited that Dora was actually holding her very own drawing, and put it in her backpack.”
Families came from all over for the inaugural weekend on Marco. A random sampling of folks questioned had arrived from Detroit, Las Vegas, Washington, D.C. and central Florida, as well as some Marco natives.
The festivities kicked off Friday evening with a “dive-in” movie, where kids could watch a Nickelodeon family flick while floating in the pool. Of course, someone would have to explain to the youngsters that there used to be something called a drive-in movie; maybe their parents are old enough to remember.
Saturday morning, the children get to meet and get their picture taken with SpongeBob or Dora the Explorer at the character breakfast, and then create keepsakes in the arts and crafts workshop.
As promised, the parents can get involved too — at least a couple of dads were diligently finishing their offspring’s projects after the younger generation’s attention span reached its limit.
“Our kids are having a ball,” said mom Christie Azzam, who was just watching as Gabby, 11, and Alex, “almost 9,” worked on their clay SpongeBob place mats.
“They got so slimed last night, they were bright green, and they stayed up for the very end of the show.”
As mentioned, getting slimed is a reward for a job well done, and the next event of the weekend was the first of two afternoon shows on the beach behind the hotel.
Parents and kids alike got to participate in the My Tighty Whities contest, vying to pull on the most pairs of underwear before the clock ran out. The winners got slimed.
Then, the Blue Crew and the Red Crew competed at tongue twisters. Those who got them right, of course, got slimed, involving having a balloon full of goo broken over their heads.
Those whose tongues stumbled were penalized by getting “gacked,” which also meant having a balloon full of goo broken over their heads.
After the Pie On My Butt contest, a Nickelodeon classic — what do you suppose happened to the winners? — the overall winning team captain got majorly slimed, and everyone left happy.
The only folks left on the beach were the high-energy crew who had bounced around and coordinated the activities, and they received production notes from the show’s director, showing that Nickelodeon and Marriott take fun seriously, and are determined to keep improving their effort.
“When you look into the faces of the parents and kids, it tells you all you need to know,” said Nick Wagner, the Marco Marriott’s director of recreation, or, as he put it, “director of fun.”
“They’re laughing, they’re having a good time.”
The kids get to sleep on Dora the Explorer or SpongeBob pillowcases, and take home a photo of themselves with their favorite character.
They were due back in an hour and a half for the next show, featuring the Big Squeeze, SpongeBob Wet Butt, and Plankton’s Plunge. It’s a fair bet those kids are going home tired and happy.
Marco’s Marriott will be hosting the event each weekend through Sept. 7.