Thousands of folks spread out around downtown Missoula, the Southgate Mall and the University of Montana Wednesday night to celebrate New Year's Eve. It's all part of First Night Missoula, which includes events and activities at some 30 venues throughout town, all honoring Missoula's artists and entertainers.
Crowds came out to watch and even face off with one of First Night's most popular entertainers, the legendary "Octopus" in a game of chess. Greg Nowak, more commonly known as the "Octopus" has been doing this every year since First Night started, challenging dozens of folks to a game of chess simultaneously.
"I have a big ego. I like to win," Nowak said.
"It's quite extraordinary to watch him go board to board,” said game Miles Kinney, the Master of Ceremony for the game. "I've done this eight times over last 11 years; drawn him twice, beat him once and got five whoopings in the behind."
"My record for players at one time is 68,” Nowak said.
“I've been losing to the Octopus four years in a row,” said one challenger, Rob Gibbons.
“I just want to brag a little. I got him to check once, it's not five, but I got him once it's a pretty good accomplishment," said Gibbons' daughter Maggie.
“I'm going to get destroyed. I have no chance," another challenger said.
“Playing someone one on one is one thing. Taking on potentially 22 people at once, for him to go to that and almost win every game is amazing to me," Kinney said.
At last check the score was 58 for the Octopus, one win for Missoula, and one draw.