Lifelong friends headed to Vegas to compete in 'Bands of Buds' contest

Around Arlington Heights, a group of lifelong friends call themselves the “Festers,” after hours spent during high school in one another's basements and at weekend parties while in college.

Now, these Buffalo Grove High School grads are making their friendship pay off. The group is among 25 “Bands of Buds” nationwide who are finalists in a contest sponsored by Budweiser to find the best friends in the country.

Four of the original seven Festers Joe Bartling, PeteTomicic, Dan Turro and Matt Worsley call their team “Fester Na7ion,” to honor the seven original buds. Together, they beat out 300 teams by compiling the most points and votes during an eight-week online competition.

Most of their challenges consisted of taking photos of the group from a hometown shot to playing their favorite sport and posing for an album cover to post them on the Band of Buds website, as well as taking part in trivia contests at local bars.

“The photo challenges asked you take these obscure images that you'd have to get up off the couch and do,” says Worsley, a financial benefits analyst by day and now living in Chicago.

Their berth to the national competition took place last month at a casting call party at John Barleycorn's in Chicago, where radio personalities Sherman & Tingle from Q 101 FM joined a pair of Blackhawk Ice Girls as celebrity judges.

Fester Na7ion was one of 12 teams to qualify, and they won the day by triumphing in a trivia contest about themselves and their friendship.

On Wednesday, Dec. 15, they head to the Mirage Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, where they will go up against the top 25 teams from major cities across the country in a reality show type of competition.

At stake? A cool $100,000 and a two-page spread in Rolling Stone Magazine, as well as a possible role in a new reality show.

Sound pretty awesome?

“Sure, the money would be nice and the magazine spread would be cool,” says Turro, 24, a construction project manager now living in Chicago.

“But what's really important to us is confirming what we've always known: that we're the best friends in America.”

Their friendship goes back to kindergarten at Greenbrier Elementary School and Thomas Middle School, both in Arlington Heights. Most of them played high school soccer, while the others were on the swim team and played water polo.

But what really cemented it, they say, were the annual summer camping trips taken with their dads, which they figure they did with friends from their Arlington Heights neighborhood 15 years straight.

Spending a lot of time together continued even though they went to different colleges, and it carries on now that they are working and mostly living out on their own. Only Bartling still lives in Arlington Heights, while the others live in Chicago.

Their 20-year friendship means their level of knowledge about each other's lives is extraordinary. It came in handy during the trivia contests which they describe as “like the Newlywed Game, only about us.”

“We basically know too much about each other, that we finish each other's sentences,” says Tomicic, who captained the soccer team at Augustana College and now works in customer service for a medical supplies company.

On weekends, they can be found hanging out at such local establishments as John Barleycorn in Schaumburg, Gatsby's in Arlington Heights, and Lamplighter's and Durty Nellie's in Palatine.

“We always said we wanted to go to Vegas one day,” Bartling says, “and now we're going.”

Follow their progress online at

From left, Dan Turro, Joe Bartling, Pete Tomicic and Matt Worsley. Courtesy Budweiser