[Originally published in the Rutland County Express on 8/19/10]
On Aug. 11, an impromptu scavenger hunt unfolded throughout the streets of downtown Rutland in a 90-minute flash of silliness and awkward social interactions. I knew the “RutVegas Quest” was bound to get a little weird. However, I didn’t expect it to be so much fun.
Katie is one of a handful of my high school friends who, since college, has found herself landing back in Rutland for stretches of time between various seasonal jobs and trips around the globe. It’s no surprise that being back leaves her a bit restless.
I had a vague notion what this quest thing was all about. The night before, as a group of us sat in Muckenschnabel’s,
Katie floated the idea. I rolled my eyes and checked out of the conversation as several of my friends schemed, compiling a list of places and tasks.
It’s not that I thought it was a bad idea; I’m just accustomed to seeing things like this sit in the conceptual phase until they are forgotten.
I recalled the scavenger hunts I took part in during college and shuddered. While a good time was had by all, they were hardly something you’d want to do in a city where you can’t walk 10 feet without seeing someone who knows you (or your parents).
In the end I relented; mainly, because I was impressed by Katie’s determination to make it happen. Also, after three years back in Rutland, I’m starting to recognize the need to mix things up every now and then.
We convened at Table 24 at 9 p.m. In all, 14 people turned out – not bad for such short notice. Interestingly, we didn’t all know each other; a fact that Katie was counting on.
“Something like this is a good way to meet new people,” she said when I called her for a debriefing on Thursday morning. “It’s a kind of forced-contact setting that allows people to have experiences with each other in a different context.”
After some logistical matters were sorted out and cocktails were consumed, we broke out into three teams. Each team had a camera and at least one individual who knew his or her way around Rutland.
Finally, the lists were distributed and we were off.
The first task on the list set my eyes rolling again: “Get handcuffed by a cop.” As I looked at the rest of the list, I realized that a reckless approach to this game would accomplish the first task in short order.
Another team took a more direct approach to the handcuff problem by going to the police station and asking if anyone would indulge them. The amused officers on duty declined politely, and wished them luck.
Back on my team, we were also finding the direct approach to be the most effective. Telling someone that you’re on a scavenger hunt was both disarming and amusing. Once stated, most people were game to assist in some way.
For example, George Nostrand was kind enough to pause his regular Wednesday night open-mic festivities at Center Street Saloon so one team could perform a song onstage. Likewise, the Muckenschnabel’s crowd joined in when all three teams descended on the tiny corner bar for a series of Muck’s-specific tasks.
Surprisingly, in our whirlwind 90-minute tour of the town, we discovered that were not the only source for Rutland weirdness that night. At Magoo’s, we stumbled into a costumed dance party comprised of about 20 counselors from Camp Sangamon in Pittsford decked out in full 1970s garb.
At the Saloon, we met a pirate, whom we promptly asked to join our team (for a five-point bonus on our final score). At around 10:45, all three teams spilled into Two Sheas’ where our impartial yet capricious judge reviewed our photos and awarded points. In the end, my team came in second behind Team Captain Ducky.
Sitting on the deck, we reviewed the night – telling stories from the trials and tribulations of our respective teams, and getting to know some of the other participants.
Overall, Katie was pleased with what she hopes will a regular occurrence.
“It went well considering how impromptu it was,” she said.
She’s already planning for September – looking at what worked and what needs to be adjusted.
“We’ll let people know about it sooner,” she said. “And give them more time to complete the tasks.”
Ultimately, Katie was satisfied that the event broke up the typical social routine.
“It gave us something to do other than just sit around in a bar,” she said.
Indeed, while the evening took us in and out of many of Rutland’s favorite watering holes, it did provide us with a fair deal more entertainment than simply sipping Switchbacks and playing darts.
Katie also noted that the game brought out a number of 20- and 30-somethings, and succeeded in getting people to mingle outside their normal social circles.
“I think it’s important to get young people in Rutland to connect in new ways,” she said.
“Getting us all to meet each other is the first step toward doing bigger things together in the community.”