As it lumbered through the quad Thursday afternoon, a coach bus sent to pick up dozens of high school guidance counselors visiting the University was confronted with a considerable navigational challenge: dozens of students dressed as pioneers on the Oregon Trail, their oxen, or David Bowie, all putting the finishing touches on their covered wagons.
The covered wagon race that followed was part of the Scavegon trail, a multi-part event that accounts for four of the 277 items on this year’s Scav Hunt list. The Scavegon Trail, which will also require the pioneer scavvies to hunt and pick berries on their journey to the “Oregon dormitory” south of the Midway over the course of the four-day scavenger hunt, is only one of the themes running through this year’s list.
Greek mythology is another. Item number 19 on this year’s list instructed scavvies, “Nashville is often considered the Athens of the South, so bring the carthenon to the Parthenon.” At 9:00 a.m. Thursday morning, teams dressed as “Scarlett O’Hera,” Pegasus, and Zeus/Colonel Sanders set off for a journey through the upland South, including Kentucky and Tennessee, as well as a stop in Dayton, Ohio—noted on the list as “the Thrace of the South.” The road trip, a traditional element of the Scav list, is capped at 2,000 miles, but past trips have sent students as far as Colorado.
“The theme for the road trip is kind of dead horse graves and Greek mythology,” Scav Hunt Minister of Propaganda and fourth-year Kate Lipkowitz said, describing this year’s trip. List items require that teams stop at the graves of the “Famous Arabian Hambletonian Educated Horse” outside Shelbyville, Kentucky; Man O’War, and the first Tennessee walking horse, among others.
Ten teams are competing in this year’s Scav Hunt. Most teams are organized around dormitories or houses, but the Federation of Independent Scav Teams (FIST), various independent teams, and the Graduates and Alumni (GASH) team will also be returning. With anywhere between 15 and 100 scavvies on a team, Lipkowitz said the most conservative estimates put the total participants at 500.
While some teams have page captains to ensure that every item on a given page of the list is completed, from “Ping!” a spittoon (5 points) to a home-built vending machine that offers three other list items among its selection (250 points), others focus on the most interesting items, according to Lipkowitz. “Different teams have different philosophies,” she said.
“We’re always in it to win it,” said second-year Joe Tomino, one of the captains of the Max Palevsky team, which came in second place last year. His favorite item on this year’s list is one that asks teams to convert a Betamax, a defunct competitor to VHS players, into a fully functional mp3 player for 41 points.
“It’s my Betamax player,” he pointed out.
Second-year Grace Chapin, the captain of the Snell-Hitchock team, said her favorite item is number 148: “You know what happens sometimes in May? Prom. Find one. Crash it.” Extra points are given if a team member is chosen as prom king or queen.
Lipkowitz said judges, who write the list, try to maintain a balance between “build-it items, craft-it items, find-it items,” and events. While there are some of the large-scale building items for which Scav Hunt is famous on this year’s list, Tomino said that many of the items are “more time-sensitive” this year, requiring scavvies to arrive at a particular place at a particular time, instead of bringing photographic evidence of their exploits to judging. Thursday saw a go-go dancing event in front of the Medical Center, and a “trainspotting” event. Teams were told to send their best guessers to East 55th Street and South Lake Park Avenue, where they had to predict when a freight train would come, and how many cars it would have.
Scav Hunt will continue into this weekend with the Scav Olympics Saturday afternoon, which tests the contestants’ physical abilities in events such as “rubber-band biathalon” and “Aboriginal Weaponry Olympics.” Scav will culminate Sunday with judging and a showcase of some of the larger items.
This year’s Scav Hunt will not include a Friday night party, an event that had been toned down significantly in recent years after the 2006 party in Cobb Hall incurred considerable cleanup costs. Instead, teams will gather for a camp-out on the quads Friday night.