The first thing Marc Edwards did when he arrived at HI Sacramento hostel to start as General Manager was rearrange the tables spread around the hostel’s dining room so they were together as a long, single communal dining table. Today, Marc is still devoted to making the old Victorian mansion feel like home for guests, and a place for locals to be part of the travel community, with events like the monthly Bike-In Movie. The Friday night affair is a spin on the drive-in, with movie-goers riding in on their two wheels (since Sacramento is such a bike-friendly city) and getting together to watch cult classics under the balmy skies.
On a recent evening, as the smell of rosemary wafted through the air and the final sounds of the bands playing at the nearby Concerts in the Park died down, I joined the guests who had been hanging out in the hostel’s living room (whose furniture Marc had also rearranged to facilitate conversation) at the outdoor movie theater set up in HI Sacramento’s back yard. Before the screening of the original Jurassic Park movie, Marc, dressed as the movie’s protagonist and lead paleontologist Allen Grant, led a bike “Best in Show” contest for those who rode in with decked out rides. The guests modeled their bicycles with shiny bells and bright lights down the aisle to cheers from the crowd, who then got to vote for the winner. Cups of popcorn were handed out, the lights were dimmed and the opening credits of the dinosaur adventure flick appeared on the giant screen. The lady sitting next to me pulled a pack of coconut cookies out of her bag and held the tray in my direction. “Take a couple,” she said.
The bike-in movies have proved to be quite popular amongst Sacramentans, many of whom are regularly surprised to learn there is a hostel in the city where they can connect with people from all over the country and the world, and some have even gone on to rent the entire building for their own events. One of Marc’s favorite groups to rent out the house this year was a family with members living all across the globe, probably because of his passion to make HI Sacramento feel like home. His own family is in Florida, so the travelers, the hostel’s staff and its friends all over the city are like a surrogate clan who get to bond and break barriers over various activities designed to bring people together. There’s the Sunday Fun Day bike ride and barbecue, where a morning cycle around Sacramento is followed by a grill out with good food and games, like giant Jenga and giant chess; the lovely afternoon tea in the great dining room featuring freshly baked treats made by Margaret Lovallo, who works at the front desk; and the wine and cheese nights that Marc hosts so he has a chance to interact one-on-one with guests.
Whatever the event may be, expect a healthy helping of enthusiasm and possibly a costume of some sort since Marc seems to be a fan of donning the right outfit – be it a giant dinosaur costume or a full-on beekeeping suit – to help his campaigns.
Back at the bike-in, Jurassic Park ends and the movie watchers gather in little groups before they head back out into the city or to their room in the great big house. A sign painted onto the wall behind the reception desk in the hostel sums up this event and a stay at HI Sacramento up best: “Come as a stranger, stay as a guest and leave as a friend.”
“Those are words from an actual guest,” says Marc. “We just took how someone felt and made it permanent.”
Follow HI Sacramento on Facebook for the latest Bike-In Movie event and to see what crazy costume Marc wears next. And while you’re in town, check out the General Manager’s guide to things to do in Sacramento.
Mak sure you book your stay at hiusa.org and support our mission to build a more tolerant world.