NERF_for Kate story 0828

Kim Chadburn and Brian Hodnett’s Nerf gun armory where participants can select their weapons.

With blacklights, disco streams, foam darts and live DJ-music on Labor Day, one local couple will open their latest venture: Blacklight Nerf Wars at Diamond Run Mall.

Kim Chadburn moved to Rutland in 2005 while serving in the Air Force, and bought Green Mountain Storyville in the mall from a friend in 2017 as a more flexible source of income she could keep running while watching her three children.

But one thing she realized quickly was how screen time was all the time.

“They’re on their devices constantly,” Chadburn said. “They play with their friends on their devices. They’re so ingrained in these video games, so (one day) I pulled out a nerf gun and started chasing them around the house. It turned into time with my kids.”

And once her boyfriend, Brian Hodnett, gets out of work every day, it could likely mean war: Nerf launchers would be stashed under pillows, in the beds, behind car seats, under tables and wherever they could be hidden from sight for an adversary to find and launch an attack.

“We’ll have a battle right in the living room,” Hodnett said. “Sometimes I’ll get to her apartment, and I’ll go up there fully armed (with nerf guns and darts.) There will be random assassination attempts — sometimes it’s a full frontal assault.”

“We’ll send each other photos (with nerf guns), saying we’re upping our game,” Chadburn joked.

The adjacent space to Green Mountain Storyville is the former home of Olympia Sports, now a wide-open vacant area Chadburn normally used to host private children’s birthday parties.

Lightbulbs went off in Hodnett and Chadburn’s heads: With the dark walls and vicinity to the bounce house playground and GMS, it was the perfect place for the ultimate party: glow-in-the-dark foam dart battles by blacklight.

“It’s bringing a video game environment into the real world,” Hodnett said. “They bring a few friends down, give them a nice spot to do it and let them have at it. It can be a free-for-all, and we have a couple of game modes with teams, and we’ll continue to build more team modes and more games.”

Hodnett set up his disc-jockey booth inside toward the back so he can provide a kid’s-choice soundtrack to every mission, and abandoned pallets have been transformed into barriers draped in white sheets illuminated by the blacklights and streams of multi-colored disco lasers that flicker through the venue.

On the back wall, a rack of 60-different glowing nerf guns are displayed so each player may wield their weapon of choice and rounds of glow-in-the-dark ammunition, and hunting tents provide adequate cover from fire.

“We bought nerf gun lots on garage-sale sites and provide all of my sons nerf guns,” Chadburn said.

The couple will providing safety face-masks and goggles for their missions, but advise foam dart warriors to come in ultraviolet-friendly clothing with their own ultraviolet face paint, which will later be supplied at the store.

The venue will be open by appointment weekdays from 6-8 p.m., and from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekends for a flat rate of $10 per kid — or adult, Hodnett said.

“There’s no age limit,” he said. “I think we all need to forget that we’re adults sometimes. ... We just want to see people come in and have a good time.”


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