Scavengers in the mist

Chicago’s 20th annual Scavenger Hunt got off to a soggy start Thursday morning as students took to the quads with carnival games, musical instruments, second-hand wares, and beat poetry to recreate the Near West Side’s Maxwell Street Market. Some participants huddled under umbrellas, but most resigned themselves to the rain. “Fresh fruit! Luscious fruit!” fourth-year Aaron Levine called out to passing pedestrians, while teammates Meade McCormick and Hilary Komlanc juggled on the sidewalk.

Circling the quads in a judge’s T-shirt and studying each team’s performance, Sara Rezvi, a fourth-year and former Scav Hunt contestant, felt a twinge of yearning. “You miss the blood,” she said. “You miss the hunt.”

A four-day competition six months in the planning, Scav Hunt this year sends ten teams searching for more than 300 items, compiled by the judges. Students wear themed costumes, decipher abstruse clues—some written in Arabic or acronyms or as chemical and mathematical formulas—and embark on a three-day road trip to pick up as many points as they can. This year’s list (pdf), kept secret until midnight Thursday, requires teams to drive to the Arkansas Ozarks to snap a photo of Eureka Springs’s Christ of the Ozarks statue, to “inquire about a tractor,” and to seek out “fragments of the Iron Curtain.” The Scav Hunt list also asks students to produce a wood-powered refrigerator, an upside-down sand castle, a diorama of “William Rainey Harper’s personal Hell,” and a hot-air balloon “made to Montgolfier specifications.” An item worth 24 points instructs contestants to pick up an armadillo from the side of the road (“random guy in armadillo suit not permitted,” admonishes a footnote), and “prove that he’s a criminal, a la Encyclopedia Brown.” For two points, students can “throw a snowball at outgoing president Tony Randall.”

The hunt concludes Sunday morning—on “Justice Sunday”—with an 11 a.m. judging ceremony at Ida Noyes Hall to pick the winners.


scav1_thumb.jpg scav2_thumb.jpg scav5_thumb.jpg
scav6_thumb.jpg scav7_thumb.jpg scav8_thumb.jpg

Photos (row 1): Meade McCormick (left) and Hilary Komlanc juggle; Liz Litchfield is "just your local belly dancer"; Julia Rotondo (in blue) squirts red liquid at a photo of President Don Randel.

Row 2: Anne Heminger tends the grill so her team can keep warm with marinaded chicken; Tric Dwyer begs people to buy "a kiss for a quarter"; Dwyer (right) wrestles with Erica Kaitz.

Photos by Dan Dry

May 12, 2006