Smiling, formally dressed students carrying umbrellas and parasols greeted passersby along the main quadrangles Thursday morning. Offering to escort fellow students, professors, friends, and strangers alike to their destinations, the students drew blank stares, giggles, and dawning looks of understanding.
It’s that time of the year again: The 2008 University of Chicago Scavenger Hunt kicked off Wednesday night with the release of this year’s list of items to be scouted out, created, or performed. Item 139 called for scavvies—as Scav Hunt participants are affectionately nicknamed—to “gallantly shelter complete strangers from Weathorr’s fury” and “[s]how the campus that Scav Hunt runs the best little escort service in Illinois.”
According to fourth-year Jennifer Crowell, Scav Hunt minister of propaganda, the judges held the list “hostage” from the teams until it was released Wednesday night. As ransom for the list, each team was given a list of demands to be fulfilled, including bringing the judges a black light, a toothpick, and a hula skirt. After each five-minute lapse, the judges burned a page of the list.
“It was fun to watch [the captains] squirm,” Crowell said, although she noted that the first few pages of the list contained rules and other important, but not key information.
The final ransom demand called for Scav captains to retrieve pencils from the A-level of the Regenstein Library. There, they were greeted by a former judge who directed them to another judge waiting in the parking structure at East 55th Street and South Greenwood Avenue. That judge handed over the Scav list.
Scav teams have until Sunday afternoon to satisfy the requirements on this year’s list, which contains 269 items. There are 11 additional items for “Scav Olympics,” which will be held on Saturday on the Eckhart quad. During the Olympics, scavvies will compete in untraditional sporting events such as a “Finnish-style wife-carrying competition”—during which competitors must prove they are indeed married—and an old-fashioned cream pie fight.
As a nod to the election season, politically flavored items constitute a recurring theme on the list. Item 17 calls for Scav participants to have a beer with a politician. Having a beer with a former candidate for civic office will gain 5 points, while having a beer with a current presidential candidate is worth 100 points. In addition, item 52 calls for “Obama’s haircut at Obama’s barbershop” (6 points) and item 152 states simply, “A Superdelegate. Must superdelegate” (56 points).
Each year, the Scav list includes a road trip to a location within a thousand miles of Chicago. This year, item 23 reads, “‘Toto, I don’t think we’re in Kansas any more.’ No, but you will be before the end of the day.” The road trip teams left Hutchinson Courtyard Thursday morning dressed as Dorothy, the Scarecrow, the Cowardly Lion, and “the Bat.” Judges required that transportation be decked out as a “flying house featuring a storm cellar door, chimneyed roof, picket fence, and the legs of the that wicked witch you just ran over.” However, there was an allowance for teams who own a yellow Buick Roadmaster.
Highlights of Scav Hunt so far include a De Lorean (the car featured in the movie “Back to the Future”) located and driven to campus by the graduate student team. Crowell noted that not only did the team receive 75 points, but that due to a bet between two Scav judges, one of the students won $75.
Crowell’s personal favorite item on the list: item 20, which called for each team to send a “Scav Warrior,” dressed in evening wear with a bathing suit underneath, to the Reynolds Club at 3:30 a.m. on Thursday. Upon arriving, the nine scavvies who had volunteered were blindfolded and driven to the airport and put on early morning flights to Las Vegas, where they are currently completing items for the hunt.
Scav Hunt is also notorious for its requisite party. This year’s party clue reads, “What if I told you your Scav Hunt Party’s nickname was ‘The Boat’?” Each team party will take place on a different boat including the Titanic, the H.M.S Pinafore, the Argo, and the Pequod, Crowell said.
The party will take place Friday on the main quads. However, students looking for a drink with presidential hopefuls should try their luck elsewhere.
“There was so much consternation with the party in the past, so we decided to cut out the alcohol and have it be a dry party,” she said.
Two years ago, the Scav party was moved indoors to Cobb due to rain and quickly shut down after students began vomiting and urinating in the inside stairwell. The Pub served alcohol to students at last year’s party on the Social Sciences quad, but the night was interrupted by an altercation that resulted in a student arrest by the Chicago Police Department.
Regardless, Crowell said that so far, the 2008 Scav Hunt is unfolding seamlessly.
“It’s going really well so far,” she said. “There’s always going to be something on the list for everyone. That’s what makes the list really, really great.”