Wet Hot American Scav Hunt begins

By Matt Lovett

The University’s annual Scavenger Hunt, for which past contestants have built a plutonium-producing breeder reactor, launched a Twinkie over the law school library, and acquired a live elephant, kicked off Wednesday at midnight in Ida Noyes Hall. Nine teams will compete in this year’s event, dubbed “Wet Hot American Scav Hunt” by organizers.

Teams began work late Wednesday night, when this year’s list was released to captains. By Thursday morning, mock Al Qaeda cave fortresses replete with armed guards (item 251) were visible on the main quads.

The list of 322 items, which is partly in other languages, requires creativity, power tools, and good connections—both Internet and personal. Notable items on this year’s list include: item 31,”a passport stamped by all three axes of evil” worth 333 points; item 222, “a model of Taco Bell Dormitory built principally out of graham crackers and skittles” good for 142 points; and item 271, “Having a member of the U.S. Congress wish your team best of luck…on the floor of the house,” for 435 points.

The list was written by a group of 15 judges who evaluate items and assign points throughout the competition. “Some people think we’re power hungry, all we want to do is see really cool stuff,” said Sam Hunt, a third-year in the College and a judge.

Teams will work until Sunday when a final judgment of items will take place. Trophies will be awarded to the first-place team, as well as a cash prize, expected to be about $500.

The cash may be more of a reimbursement for potential victors; the fact that teams have spent several times that amount in competition has led them to fundraise and solicit sponsorship in advance. The Pierce team is sponsored in part by Krispy Kreme and the Biological Sciences Division, and Broadview was given a donation by Citibank.

Though the event itself has just begun, planning for the competition has been underway for a while. “We’ve been working for the better part of a quarter…fundraising, finding space to work in and keeping people interested,” said Seth Zenz, a second-year in the College and the captain of the team Phoenix Rising of Max Palevsky Residential Commons.

Competition among teams is fierce as participants donate their time and creative energies. “I’ve done this the past two years and each year I probably get about four to six hours of sleep over the course of the competition,” said Avi Schwab, a third-year in the College and a member of Pierce’s team, the Notorious Amphioxious Posse.

The 2002 hunt, as in past years, also requires a road trip and a competition called Scav Olympics, a contest including such events as “Bean Bags and Battering Rams” and “The Moulin Luge.”

According to Head Judge Matthew “M.K.” Kellard, a third-year in the College, this year’s list was pared down somewhat after preliminary meetings with administrators who cut out several of the more hazardous and controversial items ,including tree houses on the quads, replacing the Bartlett soda fountain with beer, and a bullet-proof athletic cup, with the stipulation “prove it.” Despite these revisions, Kellard asserted that Scavenger Hunt organizers have a good relationship with administrators. “For the most part, the administration has been pretty supportive,” Kellard said.

Onlookers may notice an increased presence of camera crews at this year’s Scavenger Hunt. Both Fox News Chicago and Fire Escape, the film production club on campus, will be doing in-depth documentaries. While Fox 32 has given the event superficial coverage in the past, this year a camera crew will follow the Phoenix Rising team for the duration of the competition, according to Greg Miller, an executive producer at Fox 32. Miller heard of the competition through his sister-in-law who works in the Palevsky dormitory; “It sounded like a good story,” Miller said. The segment is scheduled to air on the nine o’clock news on May 16, and may develop into a two-part feature.

Sean Daily, a fourth-year in the College and a member of Fire Escape, is directing and organizing an eight-camera crew to create a Scavenger Hunt documentary of unprecedented scope. “The great moments of the Scav Hunt happen in so many places and are unpredictable enough that even the eight cameras we will have running will still only capture a small part of the hunt,” he said. He anticipates 320 hours of footage, and credites a Student Arts Fund Grant with allowing him to take on the project.

” is the big school thing, the only school thing,” said William Bouvel, a second-year in the College and a member of Phoenix Rising.