UVA scav hunters imitate U of C annual tradition over break

By Libby Pearson

Members of the Federation of Independent Scavenger Hunt Teams (FIST) traveled to Charlottesville, Virginia over spring break to participate in and judge the University of Virginia’s (UVa) first imitation Scavenger Hunt.

A group of students originally intended to act as contenstants, but arrived at UVa and realized that their help was needed. “We went down with the intent to compete,” Doug Diamond, a fourth-year in the College, said. “We ended up helping organize and run the event, which most definitely would not have happened in any significant fashion without our contributions,” said Colin McFaul, a third-year in the College.

The group included fourth-years in the College Diamond and Sam Smith, third-years in the College Steven Irizarry and McFaul, second-year in the College Allie Shapiro, and first-year in the College Matt O’Meara.

McFaul said that when he talked to UVa organizer Jonathan Soma, he discovered a lack of judges and an “impending disaster,” as he put it, for the event. The FIST delegates volunteered to help judge and were allowed to add about 30 items to Soma’s list.

Knowingly modeling his own event after the spring quarter tradition that has been active for around 20 years at Chicago, Soma created a list with 300 items, recruited judges, planned road trips and a Scav Olympics tournament, and even provided a hint on the website.

However, UVa’s teams were made up of only four to six people and there were few large construction items. Around 19 teams competed.

Soma was surprised at the number of teams that participated and described the event as an overwhelming success. “If we didn’t do it again, it’d probably be a mortal sin against fun at the university,” he said.

Soma explained that the changes he made to the Chicago-style event were designed to get UVa’s first Hunt off the ground.

“Along with hundreds of past participants and thousands of dollars, [Chicago] also has almost two decades of Scav Hunt under its belt,” Soma said. UVa simplified the rules by limiting the team to six. “Six people seemed like a good unit for a close-knit bunch of friends to band together.”

He said the list wasn’t too complicated, and involved neither heavy construction nor large-scale theft. ” I feel like it was just complicated enough to be fun but not so much that it discouraged participants,” Soma said. “We were aware that our teams were a maximum of six people, all first-timers, so we built it to their abilities.”

McFaul compared Soma’s list to the earliest Scav Hunt lists. “[It’s] much less complex than more recent lists, and heavily dependent on local trivia,” said McFaul.

List items included those with local flavor such as: “A picture of yourself with the sandwich lady at Newcomb. You know who I’m talking about. Extra points if she isn’t scowling.”

The Chicago visitors made sure to leave their mark by writing items, such as number 242: “Tools for the U of C’s hunt: PVC, duct tape, wood, and Palevsky’s team. Use the PCV, duct tape, and wood to build a GIANT dollar sign to represent Palevsky, those tools.”

Cream soda fanatic Irizarry included a contest to find the best cream soda, to be judged by him.

The FIST delegates slept on Soma’s floor, attended a contestant’s birthday party, discovered Little John’s New York Delicatessen at Charlottesville’s Corner District, and immersed themselves in the UVa way of life. “[It was] quite nice to be in an actual college town, which had actual 24-hour restaurants,” Smith said.

Chicago Scav Hunt Judges Jessica Jalbrzikowski, Joe Anderson, Ben Golden, and Courtney Prokopas traveled to Virginia mid-way through their hunt to hang around and witness the accomplishments of the FIST team.

Soma was impressed with the enthusiasm and optimism of the delegates from FIST. “They helped push us to not underestimate the hunters and include a few things we weren’t originally going to do,” he said.

Though UVa appreciated Chicago’s presence, there were a few instances of culture clash. “I think the major misunderstanding was their belief that Scav Hunt is more important than watching The OC. It is not,” said Soma.

The members of FIST said that if Chicago’s Scav Hunt has the potential to spread to an institution like UVa, which Soma described as overrun with pastel-polo-shirt-wearing undergraduates, then there is hope that it will spread to other colleges as well.

“I’m really psyched that the idea of the Great Hunt seems to be catching on,” said T. Benjamin Buckley, a former member of FIST and current judge.

“I don’t know that it would catch on everywhere; a certain dreary, workaholic ethos is required a priori for this particular brand of madness,” Buckley said. “However, as long as everyone remembers their history and pays due homage to Chicagoan original, it’s ninja-sweet that they want to, as it were, be like Mike.”