April 29, 2004
Vol. 23 No. 15

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    As new teams emerge, Scavenger Hunt’s ingenuity, obscurity carry on

    By Josh Schonwald
    News Office

    Liberty in freedom and freedom in chaos. The pursuit of arcane items for the sole sake of pursuing arcane items.

    These mottoes of the Scavenger Hunt will remain the same, said Kaury Eisenman, a third-year Biochemistry concentrator in the College, who is this year’s head judge.

    Eisenman, who was tapped by last year’s head judge to take on the supreme Scavenger Hunt responsibility, said she and the other 14 judges will work to preserve the traditions and integrity of what has long been believed to be the world’s largest scavenger hunt.

    “The sustainability of Scav Hunt is my main concern,” said Eisenman.

    Although much will remain the same—long road trips, sleepless nights, extravagant displays of obscure knowledge and ingenuity—there will be a few differences in Scav Hunt 2004, which will kick off Thursday, May 6, and conclude with Judgment Day Sunday, May 9.

    In recent years, Scav Hunt teams, typically affiliated through dormitories, have grown to having as many as 200 members. But this year, Eisenman expects several teams to enter mini-teams with as few as 10 members. The Vegan Society, for one, is rumored to be organizing a small team.

    While the smaller teams have little hope of winning—bucking the norm in the often hyper-competitive world of Scav Hunt—that is not their goal. “These teams may not like a lot of the items on the list, they just want to pick the ones that they care about,” said Eisenman. “And that’s the point of Scav Hunt. Make Scav Hunt what you want. Have fun.”

    Last year, Eisenman said, a team affiliated with Burton-Judson, which had approximately 20 members, was extremely successful. The team paid little attention to many of the 300-plus items on the list, but lavished attention on the items they cared about. “I was blown away by the quality of their items,” Eisenman said.

    In addition to the smaller teams, another difference in this year’s Scav Hunt is that, for the first time ever, the event may have an observer from another University. Earlier in the year, University students learned that Jonathan Soma, a student at the University of Virginia, planned to replicate a similar scavenger hunt in Charlottesville.

    This does not surprise Eisenman. Over its nearly two-decade-old lifespan, dozens of news articles have been written about Scavenger Hunt—in publications ranging from the Hyde Park Herald to the New York Times. Moreover, Chicago scavengers, traveling throughout the Midwest on road trips, have come into contact with hundreds of people. The word has spread.

    In April, the University of Virginia launched its first Scavenger Hunt, based on Chicago’s annual event.

    Eisenman said organizers of Chicago’s Scav Hunt were not threatened by the copycat event—they were thrilled. “The spirit of Scav Hunt is not proprietary,” she said. “We believe scav hunts are a good thing. It’s organized chaos. A rare chance for students to exercise their creativity and talents and show off their brilliance.”

    In fact, Chicago organizers were so pleased with the prospect of spreading the Scav Hunt gospel that they actually “consulted” with Soma and other Virginia student-organizers.

    Chicago judges visited Charlottesville over Spring Break to observe the inaugural Scav Hunt. Lead organizer Soma is hoping to visit Chicago to observe the original this May.

    “It was great,” said Eisenman of Virginia’s event. “They (Virginia students) loved it. It was a learning experience for everyone.”

    As Scavenger Hunt nears its crunch time—hours spent brainstorming about items in super-secret meetings—Eisenman noted that this is the second year in a row that the event has a benefactor. Alumnus Greg Wendt (A.B,’83) has set up a fund that provides $5,000 annually to support the Scavenger Hunt in the name of his wife Lisa Wendt. “It’s been a great help to have the additional resources,” Eisenman said.

    Also a recent Scav Hunt tradition is its support of the University Hospitals blood drive, which is open to the public and runs from Wednesday, May 5 through Friday, May 7.

    For more information on Scavenger Hunt, please visit http://scavhunt.uchicago.edu.