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Nashua's Festivus draws local professionals for a fun time

NASHUA - They dined on fried Oreos, vented their grievances and- because Festivus is all about feats of strength - they arm wrestled, Sumo wrestled and stuffed marshmallows in their mouths.

It was prime Festivus celebrating in Nashua Wednesday night as IUGO, a networking group for young and young-at-heart professionals, marked the holidays with the alternative party made famous by the sitcom, "Seinfeld."

For years, Festivus has been the celebration for the rest of us who aren't quite into the traditional holiday mode of operating.

"People who aren't married and don't have kids need a place to come," said Fouad Mahfuz, chairman of IUGO which is part of Nashua's Chamber of Commerce.

IUGO is Latin for "connect" and a crowd of propel from throughout Southern New Hampshire connected at the group's third Festivus celebration at the Nashua Holiday Inn.

"There's a huge cult following of people who celebrate Festivus," said Mahfuz, who added that the group's standard Christmas parties haven't sparked much interest.

Festivus, on the other hand, is a big night. The night started off with people airing their grievances via their Twitter accounts. Complaints were displayed on a screen at one end of the room.

There were short rants about heating bills, close talkers and several people mentioned their annoyance with the fiscal cliff.

At the other end of the room, people tossed bagels for points and competed for top honors in arm wrestling bouts. A prize was up for grabs for whoever came dressed in the ugliest sweater and plenty of people wore bight red knits with reindeers, Santas and bells.

"IUGO does a lot of networking and professional development events for young professionals," said Suzanne Delahey, a member of the committee who helped organize the event. "But we also do a lot of things that are just fun."

"We came for the fun, and the ugly sweater contest," said Chelmsford, Mass., resident Bill Brown as he munched on a variety of deep fries foods including the Oreos.

Brown's wife, Diane, said the deep fried cookies were better than expected.

Merrimack resident Starr Goodridge said she heard about the Festivus celebration from a friend at work and decided to check it out.

"I'm thinking about my grievance," she said as she watched the complaints fill up the screen.

Amberly Steward was also a Festivus first-timer, but she was feeling at home as soon as she made it to the semifinal arm wrestling round.

"This can't be anything but a good time," she said.

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Barbara Taormina may be reached at btaormina@newstote.com.

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